Exeter Street Theatre

26 Exeter Street,
Boston, MA 02116

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Showing 1 - 25 of 50 comments

doyle on December 30, 2012 at 1:43 pm

My mother used to go there during the 40s. She remembered a funny little guy who used to man the ticket booth.
She went back 35 years later – and the same guy was working the ticket booth. She recognized him instantly. She also told me the Exeter was one of two Boston movie theaters that showed foreign films. The other was on Mass. Ave and was flattened by the Christian Scientists. She remembered seeing Kind Hearts And Coronets at one of these two, in 1949.

Nataloff on August 13, 2012 at 9:57 pm

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.

Ron Newman
Ron Newman on May 26, 2012 at 11:36 am

I recall “King of Hearts” playing “forever” at the Central Square Cinema across the river — not here at the Exeter.

dickneeds111 on May 26, 2012 at 11:20 am

The Exeter was a wonderful theatre. Played mostly Art and off the wall films. Even played The House of Wax in 3D around New Years Eve in 1972. King of Hearts played forever. They even had great success with the 1st Muppetts movie because no one else wanted it so the management took a chance and it played well. They had a wonderful Stereo Sound system back in the 70’s. The only thing wrong with the Exeter were the seats. Old and uncomfrotable. A great movie experience though.

rsalters (Ron Salters)
rsalters (Ron Salters) on February 22, 2011 at 10:41 am

I went into the building after Waterstone’s Books located in it. The theater was an “upstairs house”, with the auditorium on the second floor. I recall that the only trace that was apparent to me was the street-level foyer and staircases.

Joe Vogel
Joe Vogel on February 22, 2011 at 4:36 am

Clarence Blackall was the architect for the conversion of the First Spiritualist Church into the Exeter Street Theatre in 1914, but the church itself had been built in 1884 from designs by the Boston firm Hartwell & Richardson. Henry Walker Hartwell and William Cummings Richardson (no relation to Henry Hobson Richardson) designed the church in the popular Romanesque Revival style.

Following the closure of the theater, the auditorium space was filled with two additional floors. The 1995 fire did considerable damage to the upper part of the structure, and the subsequent repairs led to additional interior alterations. I don’t know how much, if any, of Clarence Blackall’s interior work from 1914 remains, but Hartwell & Richardson’s exterior has survived remarkably well for a century and a quarter.

rsalters (Ron Salters)
rsalters (Ron Salters) on February 21, 2011 at 11:36 am

The Exeter Street Theatre is listed at “cor. Exeter & Newbury streets” in a 1918 Boston street directory.

z11111 on August 22, 2010 at 10:07 pm

Stumbled across some great quality photos (circa 1984) of the theater (along with various other Boston theaters) on flickr here: View link

Gerald A. DeLuca
Gerald A. DeLuca on June 26, 2010 at 4:52 am

Item in Boxoffice magazine, January 29, 1949:

A flurry of excitement was caused at the Exeter Street during the Sunday evening showing of “Paisan” when Rex Harrison, his wife Lilli Palmer and Maria Montez were spotted watching the film. Lilli is playing the lead currently at the Colonial in “Figure of a Girl.” “Paisan” has been booked for its fifth week at the Exeter, setting a new consecutive run record for the house.

justonemorecow on December 10, 2009 at 10:16 pm

“Let’s do the time warp again.”

fairytalefun on July 23, 2009 at 5:59 pm

simply a wonderful place to see a movie..its intriguing, majestic, ornate charm only added to the movie-goers experience…

Joe Vogel
Joe Vogel on June 25, 2009 at 9:14 pm

The August, 1984, issue of Boxoffice Magazine says that the Exeter Theatre was designed by architect Clarence H. Blackall.

meredithlee on January 17, 2009 at 12:11 pm

In Boston in the 70’s there was a series of films shown on local TV, hosted by Frank Avurush (who also had been the Boston TV Bozo if I remember correctly), where he would show 1 movie Saturday night and 2 on Sunday, all with the same theme or star, and he would talk about them. One night I was at the Exeter with friends seeing Seven Beauties (I think), it was really crowded, and Frank and film crew show up to shoot the line and crowd and got us buying our tickets at the box office which became the new showopen for his series.

MPol on September 30, 2008 at 7:26 pm

What a beautiful old theatre the Exeter was, inside as well as out. I remember seeing Chariots of Fire, A Wedding, and a CSNY concert movie in that exeter, plus some others. I miss that theatre.

bliberman on August 28, 2008 at 4:11 am

I can still remember the pleasantly musty scent of this great old theatre during its heyday. Right or wrong my memory is that they competed with the Kenmore for British comedies – early Peter Sellers (I’m All Right Jack, The Mouse That Roared) and the great Terry-Thomas in “School for Scoundrels” the most memorable of all. I can still hear T-T repeatedly shouting out “Haaaard Cheese!” every time he outdid his victim, played by Ian Carmichael.

Most notably, the Exeter frequently foisted those god-awful moving abstract painting shorts with harpsuchord music before the feature. Believe me they were even more annoying than Mel Brooks made them out to be in his Oscar-winning short “The Critic” in 1963. (See my posting for the Astor for more on that brilliant little 3 ½ minute film – it was shown all over the land before each screening of “Dr. Strangelove”.)

rsalters (Ron Salters)
rsalters (Ron Salters) on June 20, 2008 at 11:28 am

The theater’s ad in the Boston Globe of Dec. 24, 1921 is headed simply “Exeter Theatre” and not “Exeter Street” which was the name in the 1940s and later. Their ad states that shows are continuous from 215PM to 1030PM, and that there was a change of shows on Thursdays (double features Mon-Wed; and then another pair Thurs-Sat.) On Sundays from 730PM there was a program of “Select Photoplays and Music”.

edblank on June 3, 2008 at 8:50 am

For reasons I’ve forgotten, I was always intrigued by the name Exeter Street Theatre when I was keeping track of Variety’s reported grosses for Boston moviehouses.
When I visited a Boston friend in 1972, we saw one or two of the latest releases in the heart of Boston (“Everything You Always Wanted to Know About Sex” was one), and somehow the subject of visiting the Exeter came up.
It happened to be playing a revival of Ozu’s “Tokyo Story” (1953), which I loved. But mainly I was struck by the uniqueness of the theater, which informed the experience of watching “Tokyo Story."
I’m sorry to learn the theater had difficulty getting major bookings and that it long ago stopped serving the filmgoing community.
The sheer capacity (a whopping 1,300 seats) must have made the theater difficult to maintain in terms of utilities, et al, and it may have had a weekly nut (operating expenses) greater than most distributors were willing to allow for.
Also, art house distributors tend to favor long runs in more intimate houses. Protracted engagements of "The Mouse That Roared” and “Cousin, Cousine” notwithstanding, I’m guessing most movies burned out too quickly at the large Exeter Street.

Gerald A. DeLuca
Gerald A. DeLuca on February 16, 2008 at 6:36 am

For many decades the Exeter Street Theatre published and printed displays and newspaper ads in its own special and idiosyncratic lettering style and format. HERE is an example, from the 1961 run of General della Rovere.

DennisJOBrien on January 16, 2007 at 4:40 pm

Because of its central location in the elegant Back Bay neighborhood, this theater was able to attract sophisticated audiences for many years. People could easily walk to it from many points or take the Green Line subway to the Copley Place station on Boylston Street. It did indeed show many British and foreign-language films. On one of their early dates together, my parents came here in 1948 or soon after to see the British film, “I Know Where I’m Going,” starring Wendy Hiller. They always told me (much later, of course) that the theater was packed that night and the audience loved the picture, which had nice location photography in Scotland. Eventually I saw that movie on TV and could easily see why they liked it. When I was a B.U. student in the 1970’s, I came here a few times. I remember seeing a rare re-release of “The Hound of the Baskervilles” (a made-in-Hollywood classic) at a time when you could not rent those old movies on a VCR or DVD. It is a shame that a cinema like this could not survive in such a vibrant and upscale part of Boston.

maysell23 on August 4, 2006 at 6:04 am

I have a history with this theatre – I worked there from 1977-1981, when I was in college. It was a art house then, but was having trouble getting bookings. Some of the movies I remember from my days there were “Interiors”, “The Last Wave”, “The Tin Drum” and “Querelle”.
What kept the theatre going in my time was the midnight showings of “The Rocky Horror Show”. The rental deal was made before the film was a cult hit, so the theatre was able to keep a good perentage of the take. (When the print wore out and 20th Century Fox provided a new one, a new deal was struck and it wasn’t as lucrative).
It was a beautiful theatre, with stained glass windows in the lobby.
We found a room behind the screen with boxes and boxes of stills, pressbooks, posters and programs – mostly from the 1950’s. Most of them were British films – Olivier, Michal Powell, “Carry On” comedies and Michael Powell films

shaggycub on April 17, 2006 at 8:28 am

I’ve seen an exhibit of Dave’s collection at The Museum of Our National Heritage in Lexington a couple of years ago. It was all about the history of neon signs, and Dave’s got most of the iconic ones (such as the Naked-i, wich was NOT on display.)

Ron Newman
Ron Newman on March 2, 2006 at 1:42 am

Today’s Boston Herald has an article about Dave Waller, who collects large signs that belonged to now-defunct Boston businesses.

The story includes a picture of him standing in front of the Exeter Street Theatre’s sign, and holding another sign from the Old Howard Athenaeum.

Ron Newman
Ron Newman on February 25, 2006 at 2:16 am

On this 1928 map, the same building is labelled “EXETER STREET THEATRE” in large letters, and “1ST SPIRITUAL TEMPLE” in smaller letters underneath. It’s near the bottom right corner of the map.