Needham Cinema

916 Great Plain Avenue,
Needham, MA 02492

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Needham Cinema

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The Needham Theatre was opened on February 11, 1926. The cinema closed in 1989, but continued to stand, vacant and derelict, before it was finally demolished in August through October of 2001.

The property has long been tied up in complex litigation involving a divorce and a defaulted mortgage, and remains undeveloped.

During its last few years of operation, it became part of the Sack Theatres chain, which was subsequently acquired by Loews in 1988. Loews apparently did not have much use for this decades-old suburban town center theatre, and it closed the following year.

Any further information would be appreciated. I think it had three screens when it closed, but I’d like someone to verify this.

Contributed by Ron Newman

Recent comments (view all 9 comments)

Ron Newman
Ron Newman on March 31, 2006 at 3:34 am has lots of photos of the Needham Cinema, both before and during demolition. I’m guessing that it was built in the 1920s or earlier, but I don’t know for sure.

rsalters (Ron Salters)
rsalters (Ron Salters) on April 2, 2006 at 7:06 am

There is a MGM Theatre Photograph and Report form for the Paramount Theatre in Needham with a photo dated May 1941. The address is given as 924 Great Plain Avenue, which is very close to the address above. The Report states that the theatre had been showing MGM product for over 10 years, that it was over 15 years old, that it was in Good condition, and had 768 seats on the main floor and 347 seats in the balcony, total: 1115 seats. The theatre was part of M&P. The photo shows it with a fancy entrance and stores on either side. Was this building later adapted as the Needham Cinema ?

Ron Newman
Ron Newman on April 2, 2006 at 7:19 am

The address I posted is from this Needham Times article. It may be in error, or the address may have changed over time.

kencmcintyre on January 29, 2007 at 4:19 pm

You have to buy the rest of the article if you want to read about Alvan Levenson’s legal woes:

alvanlevenson on February 21, 2007 at 1:11 pm

Levenson Biography

Alvan Levenson was born in Cambridge, Massachusetts and grew up in Brookline, graduating from Brookline High School in 1954. He was not in attendance at graduation ceremonies, however, having joined the U.S. Marine Corps on his seventeenth birthday. While other members of his class were marching down the aisle to receive their diplomas, he was marching through the swamps of Parris Island with an M1 rifle in his hands.

In 1953 Levenson’s father bought the block of stores that included the Paramount Theater (the original name of the Needham Cinema) from the building’s former owner and builder, David Murdoch, a Needham Selectman. At the time, the theater had a single screen, a stage, a working pipe organ, and a spacious balcony. It was managed by a gray-haired gentleman, Ernie Warren, who was reputed to have known most of its patrons my name, and who maintained discipline by admonishing misbehaving youngsters with the threat of telling their parents.
When, in September 1954, Hurricane Carol slammed into Massachusetts killing his father, the U.S.O. flew Levenson back from his assignment aboard the carrier Yorktown to attend the memorial service. After returning to duty, he remained in the Pacific until receiving his Honorable Discharge in 1957.
Levenson then attended Tufts University, commuting from his mother’s home in Brookline while, at the same time, helping her manage the Needham property. Also as a student, he volunteered at Harvard’s Phillips Brooks House (a community outreach provider) where he worked with children at the Metropolitan State Hospital in Waltham. He expanded his responsibilities there by launching a program to transport the young patients to the Needham Theatre for Saturday matinees. During his tenure as a volunteer, a group of children, accompanied by attendants, would file out of their yellow bus, up the back stairs, and into the first three rows of the balcony.
Levenson graduated from Tufts in 1962, married the divorced actress, June (Martino) Lion, and settled in Newton. Their marriage ended in a crippling divorce fictionalized versions of which, Levenson, writing under the pseudonym, Harry Elliot, depicts in his novels.
After his divorce, dispossessed by lawyers who committed forgery to acquire his property, Levenson spent the next eight years fighting eviction from his barely-winterized cottage in Plymouth. He countered his Dukakis-connected adversaries on two fronts: in court, pro se, without a lawyer, where he was badly outgunned, and in the pages of his novels, most recently the BEACON HILL TRILOGY: JACKALS FEASTING, self-published in 2003, its unpublished PREQUEL (a reworking of DIVORCE, DUKAKIS STYLE), and the just-completed CIRQUE DUKAKIS. Although privy to many of the activities of the Dukakis crowd, he was not inclined to write an exposé or non-fiction account of their devious and even illegal (forgery) behavior. He has learned that, in Massachusetts, well-connected lawyers and corrupt courts answer to no one, and that fairness cannot be achieved through debate and polemics. Accordingly, using a pseudonym, he chose to people his experiences with fictional characters in human-interest stories. Most of us know fairness and justice when we see it¾and that, according to Levenson, is what his books are all about.

While writing JACKALS FEASTING, Levenson met Dorothy Magette, a Princeton University graduate with a Ph.D. in comparative literature, who began editing his work. With a dissertation that had focused on Balzac and Dickens, she provides Levenson with a valuable perspective regarding political corruption, the courts, and the machinations of lawyers.

The couple are happiest now sharing their experience. Offering hope to those struggling against the forces of greed and injustice. If an ordinary citizen perseveres against powerful wrongdoers, Levenson asks¾shouldn’t that be inspirational to others?

nightfly on August 15, 2009 at 2:28 pm

I went there a number of times in the early ‘70s. At the time, they had “redecorated” it in a modern motif, with lots of mirrors, dark fabric, and track lighting. It didn’t seem a bad place to catch a good film.

TLSLOEWS on August 4, 2010 at 3:57 pm

Another one time Loews.

rsalters (Ron Salters)
rsalters (Ron Salters) on November 10, 2010 at 11:06 am

In the 1927 Film Daily Yearbook there is one theater listed for Needham MA, the Needham Th. with 600 seats, open 6 days/week.

Joe Vogel
Joe Vogel on July 2, 2013 at 10:45 pm

I suspect that this house is the Needham Theatre listed in the 1927 FDY. Motion Picture News of March 6, 1926, reported that the Needham Theatre had formally opened on February 11. The Paramount-affiliated house had a Robert Morton organ.

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