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Hi Mike: You’re on the money with the redlining of your grandfather’s theatres — or perhaps we should call it blacklining. It’s also why he’d open films at the 57 and Cheri date and date and watch the audiences bifurcate. I did his publicity in 1973 and 1974 and can tell you that it wasn’t an arrangement with the Boston Police Department as much as with the industry’s racism. I’m sorry to put it that way, but I was in those Saturday exec meetings at the Savoy and heard it. (BTW, my love to Ina and David.)
Bless Justin Freed for booking my comedy short “Chickens!” at the Kenmore to run prior to “And Now for Something Completely Different.” the pairing ran six months! The only drawback to the Kenmore was that they couldn’t show Panavision without chopping off the edges. Polanski’s “Macbeth” became “acbet” in the wide screen process of “inemascop.”
@David 192: You ran “The Exorcist” on its Christmas day screening? Nice to know. I was Sack’s publicist whop sat among the 15 or so reviewers there. Talk about a super private showing. We had no idea what was going to explode the next morning at 10 AM. Thank you for setting up a great show — the print was 35mm mono mag, if I recall. — Nat
@David Zornig & other friends: I was in the “Casino Royale” riot and later worked with the Columbia field PR man, John Markle, who set it up. I have a book coming out after Labor Day (2016) called “Screen Saver” about this and other memories of doing publicity in Boston for Sack Theatres and then as a critic and producer in Boston, NY, and LA. The book will be available from Amazon or directly from the publisher Bear Manor Media (www.bearmanormedia.com) but it won’t be listed for a couple of months. You heard it here.
Cinema 733 (its address on Boylston Street) was owned by Freddie Taylor of Paul’s Mall and Jazz Workshop fame and Tony Mauriello. Neil Evans booked it knowledgeably from films that were coming off third run and flat rentals as second features. It felt more like a screening room than a theatre, but it was a canny use of real estate and a last-ditch intown anchor house for those of us in distribution.
Before it was Loew’s Abbey, the Abbey was owned by Robert (Bobby) Epstein. Bobby was the first exhibitor I ever worked with when I entered PR in Boston and he spoiled me. When he booked the AIP release of the commonwealth United production of “Julius Caesar,” starring Charlton Heston, I handled group sales and kept the Abbey filled with high school field trips for months. (I apologize to all those students who had to sit through “Julius Caesar.”) I suspect Bob simply tired of exhibition, because he formed a partnership with writer Allan Folsom and tried to produce movies. (Later Folsom did become a screenwriter and novelist.)
@FlamingoMom: Boy do I remember Helene’s Costume Shop. I was doing a promotion for “Carry On Henry VIII” at the Astor and needed to have someone dress up as the fractious regent for a street ballyhoo. Naturally, I visited Helene. What an experience. I could have sewn a costume from scratch in the time it took her to talk and look through racks and talk and lay out fittings and talk and talk. I suspect the poor dear was lonely, or maybe she was fading, but I never went back there again (except to return the costume).
The Paris was not a Sack theatre when it enjoyed its heyday in the late 60s and early 70s. It was four-walled by Joseph E. Levine of Embassy Pictures, which became Avco-Embassy during the lease, to show “The Graduate,” “The Producers” and “The Lion in Winter” because Levine was still having a blood feud with Ben Sack over Sack’s 1965 exhibition of Levine’s release, “Darling,” and no way was Joe gonna let Ben make any money off him. The feud was finally settled when Sack booked “The Night Porter” from Joe in 1974. I know this because I handled the PR for them, God forgive me.
Hi Michael (and others) late of Off-the-Wall. I spent many happy hours there reviewing your programs, plus I got to meet June Foray, Bill Scott, Richie Havens and a few others whose films ran at OTW. Later worked with Larry Silverman at WSBK and Dana Hersey who is still, 25 years later, the best and most professional guy I ever shared a screen with. Nat Segaloff
I had three local theatres growing up in Northwest Park: the Langley, the Flower, and the Allen. The Langley was on the mainstream firstrun track, the Flower was what passed for an art house, but the Allen was fearless in running exploitation movies. I spent many a happy Saturday matinee in the Allen sticking to the floor while watching Roger Corman movies, Japanese import horror films, and independent monster releases. But the first movie I saw there was the last reissue of “The Wizard of Oz” before MGM sold it to CBS. It scared the bejesus out of me, and what made it worse was that, on the way out, I turned around and saw the mural with those two humongous masks of comedy and drama glaring down at me above the lobby. I was so rattled that I begged my parents to take me to Topps Drive-In across New Hampshire Avenue for a double-decker burger and a milk shake “so think you have to take lessons to drink it.”
We used to call the second version of this theatre “the bunker.” You had to walk down a humongous flight of stairs to get there after buying your ticket at street level, and then walk up them afterward when the show was over. (So much for the Americans with Disabilities Act.) The rumbling that occurred every so often was the Green Line MBTA passing nearby underground. And everyone is right about the reissue of “This is Cinerama” that played there. It was wrong in every possible way.
I haven’t been there in decades, but when it first opened I was appalled that they were showing movies that had been shot in IMAX in the incorrect Omni-Max format. The result stretched a flat image across an oval screen, horribly distorting and dimming the image. I don’t know if they’ve found a way around this, but it got to the point where I simply stopped reviewing them so I wouldn’t sound like a broken record every time they opened a new attraction the wrong way.
The Gary (named after Ben Sack’s son) and Saxon (also supposedly named after “Sack’s son”) were linked by an underground passageway.
A very eccentric woman named A. Viola Berlin ran the Exeter Street Theatre. She seemed to be the only person in the world who could get along with Donald Rugoff, the mercurial owner of Cinema 5 who supplied the Exeter with its remarkable string of hits from about 1967 to the early 70s. I seem to recall as well that Ms. Berlin used the theatre on Sunday mornings for some sort of religious services, thereby receiving some kind of tax advantage. Above all, I remember that the Exeter was the one Boston theatre where you went to the theatre rather than the movie playing there because you knew the movie playing there would usually be good.
Tom Kauycheck was the long-time manager of the Cheri after Joe Sasso was promoted. Tom’s assistant was Hugo Ugolini. Tommy was terrific and he tended to hire from Boston’s Asian community because (he told me) of their strong family relationships and therefore dependability. But he also hired a lot of Irish kids. The Cheri was the Sack (well before Loews and USA Cinema) flagship house and was touted as among the first mult-screen cinema in the United States. Cheri I and II were okay but Cheri III was a disaster with the projector mounted in the ceiling aiming down (thanks to the space available within the parking garage). By the way, my name is Nat Segaloff and I was the chain’s publicity director in 1973 and 1974, then became a critic.
Apparently this is the site that pops up when you can’t sleep. I’m Nat Segaloff and I was publicity director of Sack Theatres from January 0f 1973 through November of 1974. I remember a lot of great people who worked at the Savoy including Lee (nee Laurie) Arnone, George Andriotti, Fran DeVasto, Steve Amy, Keith Langan, Cedric Henderson, Barbara, John Goyack, and I’m trying to connect faces with the names on this thread, so please help. Of course, the last entry was in April of 2012 and before that in 2011, so there’s more of a chance of the bust of B. F. Keith singing “Volari” than of my hearing back from or about anybody. BTW, I moved to LA in 1993 and have been writing books and producing TV shows off and on since then. And I miss Boston every day.