Cobb Theatre

1005 Washington Street,
Boston, MA 02118

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Donald C. King’s new book ‘The Theatres of Boston: A Stage and Screen History’ describes this as “a 700-seat one-floor motion picture house opposite the Columbia Theatre, next to the Apollo Theatre”.

He goes on to call the Cobb and Apollo of the Depression era “once nickelodeons but then truly crap-cans, playing the very last runs, admission 10 cents at all times. Several nearby restaurants offered a complete meal for 25 cents, which was salvation for the Depression’s unemployed, who slept in those nearby dime movie houses”. King says that they both lasted into the 1940’s.

Contributed by Ron Newman

Recent comments (view all 13 comments)

Ron Newman
Ron Newman on March 11, 2007 at 5:04 am

Where can I find this essay?

rsalters (Ron Salters)
rsalters (Ron Salters) on March 14, 2007 at 4:53 am

The essay “Saga of the Movie Industry in Boston” by Joseph S. Cifre was published in some type of magazine, either a trade publication or a historical society bulletin. I’m guessing it was written around 1950, and I estimate that Joe Cifre was born around 1890. In the 1950s, his name and comments were in the newspapers occasionally because he was considered an authority on Boston movie theatres and film distribution. He got his start as a teenager with his brother, working at his dad’s nickleodeon in the West End (near North Station). That was the Monaco at Green & Hale streets in 1905. If you go to the Tufts University library system and can find the Earle Stanley Stewart theatre collection there, look for a paper-bound booklet, 8 x 11 inches, with a cream cover with an exterior photo of the Old Howard Theatre on it, and titled “Boston Convention July 1983, Theatre Historical Society”. That booklet was published by “Charlie” Stewart and contains not only the entire Cifre article, but a page of additional comments, author unknown (probably Charlie).In addition, the Collection probably has the original publication in which the Cifre article appeared.

rsalters (Ron Salters)
rsalters (Ron Salters) on January 20, 2009 at 9:14 am

More about Joe Cifre. In 1916 he opened a theatrical equipment company, apparently called Joe Cifre Inc. Around 1953 he sold his company to Arthur Porter and partners who changed its name to Major Theatre Equipment Corp. This company has just moved from Dorchester Avenue in South Boston to larger quarters on Holmes St. in North Quincy.

Belovari
Belovari on August 24, 2009 at 8:28 am

Dear Ron Salters,can you let me know how you found the Earle Stanley Stewart collection at Tufts Library. I am unable to locate it.

Thank you S. B.

rsalters (Ron Salters)
rsalters (Ron Salters) on September 25, 2009 at 8:52 am

S.B. – Earle Stanley Stewart was the elderly owner of the Charles Stewart Theatrical supply company in Somerville. He had a life-long collection of “paper” relating to theater buildings in general, and Boston-area theaters in particular. When he died in the 1990s, I was told by the late Donald King, a theater historian and writer who was a close friend of Stewart’s, that the entire collection had been willed to the library system at Tufts University. He also told me that the library had learned that 4 additional boxes of material had been loaned by Stewart to another collector prior to his death so they successfully worked to have the boxes returned. I heard this circa-1998 or so. I have never actually been in a Tufts library and do not know what the status of this collection is today.

rsalters (Ron Salters)
rsalters (Ron Salters) on February 10, 2011 at 10:18 am

In a 1918 Boston street directory, the Cobb Th. is listed at 1009 Washington Street in the South End, on the west side of the street, near Cobb Street.

rsalters (Ron Salters)
rsalters (Ron Salters) on April 10, 2011 at 7:49 am

In his autobiography, the comedian Fred Allen (1894-1956) says that he played in small-time vaudeville at this theater when it was stilled called the Dreamland. This would have been in the 1912-1914 period.

MarkB
MarkB on March 3, 2013 at 6:59 pm

The Cobb shows up on a 1917 map. In a 1928 map, it’s Cobb Theatre, Apollo Theatres Inc. In 1938, both the Cobb and the Apollo up the street are owned by John A. Henes.

jport
jport on April 3, 2014 at 3:23 am

While barker of the Variety Club, Joe Cifre was also instrumental in the founding of the Jimmy Fund. Do you have any information about him in that role, Ron? I’m interested in piecing together some of that history for my Dad (Arthur Porter) whom you mentioned in one of your comments.

rsalters (Ron Salters)
rsalters (Ron Salters) on April 3, 2014 at 7:35 am

jport – I didn’t know that Joe Cifre was connected to the Jimmy Fund, but it doesn’t surprise me, nor does it surprise me to learn that he was active in the Variety Club. I don’t know much about him, except as a boy theater-building hobbyist in the late-1940s and the 1950s, I recall seeing his name often in the Boston newspapers. He was an active man, and was considered an authority on Boston theaters. His company was the place to go to get theater equipment and supplies.

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