Community Playhouse

370 Washington Street,
Wellesley, MA 02481

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sartana on September 4, 2013 at 5:29 am

A very detailed article about the incredible sound system which was installed at the Playhouse along with a picture of the auditorium. (PDF reader required)

HPS-4000 sound

dce6644 on May 20, 2012 at 6:18 am

People forget that prior to video, the James Bond films were in constant re-issue as double features and we went to see them again and again. The Community Playhouse was certainly one of the places we went to see them. If I had a nickel for everytime I saw “Thunderball” / “You On ly Live Twice”…

Playhouse Saturday matinees were a haven for anyone who loved comedies, especially anything with Danny Kaye or Jerry Lewis.

sartana on May 12, 2012 at 3:21 am

This was the theatre where the prototype of what would eventually be called HPS-4000 sound system was first installed. Please visit the HPS-4000 site and click on “Building Audiences” for more info.

ErikH on September 25, 2011 at 3:51 pm

Another Westonian here and I knew that family as well—-the Spencers. A lot of good memories from seeing films there in the 70s and 80s. I remember being impressed when the Spencers invested in a Dolby stereo system around 1980 (and my recollection was that the investment was substantial). It was highly unusual for a second run theater in those days to invest in a stereo system; most first run theaters in Boston and the suburbs were not equipped for Dolby,yet the Playhouse was.

CineSister on August 29, 2011 at 6:29 am

I grew up in Weston, and was friends with the family that owned the Playhouse in the 70s. I remember the .75 cent matinees. What a treasure!

rsalters (Ron Salters)
rsalters (Ron Salters) on November 19, 2010 at 11:23 am

The Community in Wellesley is listed in the 1927 Film Daily Yearbook as having 800 seats and open 6 days/week.

nightfly on August 15, 2009 at 2:04 pm

Growing up, I probably saw more films here than everywhere else combined. As someone noted earlier, it was around the plainest theatre I’ve ever attended — very much like an old-fashioned school auditorium with a projector installed. You went here for the great movies, not the small-town atmosphere. I also recall that the screen could be rolled up and the proscenium used — never saw a play there, but the M.I.T./Wellesley College Symphony gave a concert once where I sat in the balcony.

nathang on August 4, 2008 at 7:31 pm

Alas, the marquis has been removed as of this year (2008).

What a great theater this was. I’m so thankful to have had it until I was 15. Everyone I knew was sad to see it go.

tobaccocard on June 17, 2008 at 6:19 am

When I moved to Wellesley in 1972 I was struck by the “plain-ness” of the Community Playhouse.

It offered an austere New England atmosphere unlike the grand theatres I had experienced in New York and Chicago.

I felt it had a lot in common with early New England churches.

I somehow felt the term “playhouse” was an attempt to distinguish from a “theatre”.

rsalters (Ron Salters)
rsalters (Ron Salters) on November 21, 2006 at 8:42 am

The MGM Theatre Photograph and Report form for the Community Playhouse in Wellesley has a facade photo taken in April 1941. There is a 3-sided marquee with a flat front panel on which is printed “Community Playhouse” in script letters. The other 2 panels have “Playhouse” in large letters with 3 lines for attractions below. The film playing is “Strawberry Blonde”. At the top of the center panel appears to be a planter with flowers in it – I’m not sure of that. Below the marquee is a double set of French doors with poster cases on either side. The Report states that the Community is at 370 Washington St. in Wellesley Hills; that it has been playing MGM product for over 10 years; that it was opened about 1925; that it’s in Good condition; and has 499 seats, all on one floor. It attracts a “class” patronage (meaning “high-class”).

Gerald A. DeLuca
Gerald A. DeLuca on November 21, 2005 at 1:20 am

Here is a photo of the Wellesley Community Playhouse from 1981.

Ron Newman
Ron Newman on March 5, 2005 at 8:12 am

A different Globe article, published on July 27, 1986, says that the building was constructed in 1921 as a recreation facility for Babson College, then became a movie house in 1924. I don’t know which article is correct.

Ron Newman
Ron Newman on March 5, 2005 at 8:10 am

The Community Playhouse ran its last movies on Saturday, February 28, 1987. The last day’s films were a matinee of Lady and the Tramp and an evening show of Children of a Lesser God.

According to a Boston Globe article published that day, the Playhouse opened in a former schoolhouse in 1921.

snorwood on February 22, 2005 at 7:09 am

I believe that the theatre was always intended for motion-picture exhibition, but cannot confirm that.

The theatre was rather successful, but closed in 1986 or 1987 because the building was sold to a developer; it is now a dreadful mini-mall called “Playhouse Square.” At least they kept the marquee mostly intact.

I saw many films there as a child growing up in Wellesley and remember the theatre (and its chandelier, big green curtains, and antique ticket-grinding machine) fondly. They always put on a good show and the theatre was always clean and well maintained. Prices were reasonable, too. A small popcorn was $.75 in the mid-1980s.

The building was conceived and built by Roger W. Babson in the 1920s. There was originally a cafe adjacent to the theatre and a bowling alley (!) in the basement.

Ron Newman
Ron Newman on November 30, 2004 at 7:01 am

Was this theater ever used as a live stage? Its name suggests that it was.

ErikH on November 18, 2004 at 4:54 am

I knew the owners of the Community Playhouse, and the decision to sell the family-owned business in the mid-1980s was a very difficult one.

The family had taken great pride in maintaining the theater over the years. Case in point: although the Playhouse only showed second runs, the owners installed a Dolby sound system in the early 1980s—-a time when many first run theaters in the Boston area hadn’t upgraded to Dolby. The last film I saw there was “Crocodile Dundee” in 1986; the Playhouse closed soon afterwards.

Can someone please correct the name of the theater? I don’t believe that the Playhouse was ever known as “Community Theater.”

William on November 20, 2003 at 2:20 pm

The Community Playhouse was located at 370 Washington Street and it seated 499 people.