Somerville Theatre

55 Davis Square,
Somerville, MA 02144

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Somerville Theatre

Viewing: Photo | Street View

Opened on May 11, 1914, with 1,100 seats, this neighborhood movie palace was home to plays, opera, and vaudeville before going movies-only. Ray Bolger danced here live, and Busby Berkeley directed plays here.

The non-theater part of the building housed an old ballroom, that, along with some storefronts, was demolished in the 1980’s to make way for four smaller screens to complement the big original theater, which has a huge balcony, screen, and a lot of style. By 2012, a 31-seat micro screen had been added.

Many concerts happen here, in addition to the current slate of movies. This is a well-maintained and well-loved theater.

Contributed by Andy Blesser, Loewlife

Recent comments (view all 161 comments)

Ron Newman
Ron Newman on December 9, 2010 at 11:42 am

The track ran across Holland Street right where the Red Line entrance is now, through what’s now the plaza in the middle of Davis Square, and across College Ave. right where that Red Line entrance is now (then down what’s now the busway and Community Path going east).

Here are a 1956 photo and a 1976 photo for comparison — note that the attached jewelry shop (now demolished) is in both photos.

IanJudge
IanJudge on December 9, 2010 at 11:42 am

Yes, Ron that has to be us. The tracks passed within a few yards of the side of the building, and you would indeed have seen the old signal tower in the middle of the square if you were facing that direction.

Ron Newman
Ron Newman on December 9, 2010 at 10:30 pm

If you can log in to Facebook, you will find more photos of old Davis Square (including the theatre and the railroad tracks) here and here.

rsalters (Ron Salters)
rsalters (Ron Salters) on December 10, 2010 at 11:13 am

Thanks for your responses. I now know that the 1976 photo is facing east toward Boston. This rail line was used only for freight trains to and from the west; however, I rode over it on an excursion train many years ago. The train was behind schedule and it was getting dark; we raced down the line and Davis Square was just a blur!

Ron Newman
Ron Newman on December 10, 2010 at 11:23 am

According to John Roderick, who provided the Facebook photo sets, the rail line through Davis occasionally saw passenger trains when the Fitchburg main line was closed due to flooding or construction.

Some small commercial buildings that used to be attached to the railroad side of the theatre were demolished for the Red Line. One of them contained a Mexican restaurant called La Pinata.

rsalters (Ron Salters)
rsalters (Ron Salters) on February 24, 2011 at 10:44 am

In the 1918 edition of the Boston Register and Business Directory, Issue 83, under “Theatrical Supply” there is an out-of-town firm listed: O.L. Story Scenic Company Inc., 21 Tufts St. in Somerville. It seems probable that the Somerville Theatre may have been a client of this company.

Ron Newman
Ron Newman on June 15, 2011 at 12:18 pm

Last night, the Somerville Theatre and much of surrounding Davis Square were closed to accommodate a Hollywood film crew. They shot a scene for the forthcoming Mark Wahlberg movie TED, in which Mark attends a May 19, 1999 midnight premiere of STAR WARS EPISODE 1: THE PHANTOM MENACE at the Somerville Theatre.

The marquee and poster boards were changed to reflect this imaginary event. The red SOMERVILLE THEATRE sign over the marquee had its RVILL letters turned off during the shoot. Whether this was done on purpose, I don’t know.

In real life, a Star Wars premiere could never have happened here in 1999, as the Somerville was strictly a second-run house back then.

DavidSimpson
DavidSimpson on August 18, 2012 at 12:08 pm

This is a lovely, exceptionally well-run cinema. In addition to the lovely main auditorium it now (in July 2012) has five screens: Screen 2 – 129 seats, Screen 3 – 194 seats, Screen 4 – 120 seats, Screen 5 – 186 seats and a new screen, called the “Micro”, with 31 seats. In a nice, quirky touch, the ‘Museum of Bad Art’ is housed beneath the original circle!

IanJudge
IanJudge on December 23, 2012 at 12:35 pm

We have added digital projection to our screens; however we have retained 35mm film projection alongside the digital projectors in houses 3 and 4, and of course in the main theater as well, which can now present 35mm, 70mm, and now digital content. While we would have preferred to remain with film alone, it is clear that the film studios are not supporting that format. However we do intend to book film when available and certainly for classics series, etc.

RogerA
RogerA on July 21, 2013 at 4:10 pm

I was given a tour and demonstration of the main theater and was quite impressed. A pair of Todd-AO projectors restored back to factory specs. A chiller pump kept the gates cool to the touch. My host didn’t run any 70mm as the 70mm sound hadn’t been hooked up yet but the Todd-AO speed switch worked. The 35mm picture and optical sound from those projectors was the best I have seen in a long time. There was no question that the picture was bright enough and of course sharp. Sound was excellent. Of course they can run every aspect ratio known to cinema making this a prime venue to view a film presentation. Boston is fortunate to have this theater, I hope people appreciate it.

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