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 150 comments)

rsalters (Ron Salters)
rsalters (Ron Salters) on December 10, 2010 at 7:13 pm

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 7:23 pm

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 6:44 pm

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 8:18 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 8:08 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 8:35 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 22, 2013 at 12:10 am

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.

rsalters (Ron Salters)
rsalters (Ron Salters) on April 20, 2014 at 6:23 pm

The Boston Sunday Herald of April 20, 2014 has a long feature article by Jed Gottlieb “Classic Cinema” about the 100th birthday of the Somerville Theatre in May. There is a nice color photo of a vintage car passing the theater entrance while Manager Ian Judge changes letters on the marquee from a stepladder. There is a classic film festival going on there now. On the theater’s birthday, May 11, there will be a show consisting of “The Wizard of Oz”, plus classic short subjects, plus live music and 3 acts of vaudeville. (Where in this day and age does one book vaude acts?)

Ron Newman
Ron Newman on May 12, 2014 at 5:41 pm

Last night’s celebration was wonderful — and had 6 acts of vaudeville, plus a live orchestra, plus 2 cartoons (one with Mickey Mouse) before the main feature.

da_Bunnyman
da_Bunnyman on May 27, 2014 at 6:14 pm

I attended the same showing of Wizard of Oz on May 11 mentioned by Ron Newman.Really a wonderful night of fun with people in costume, some in formal wear. Inside the theater they had vendors going up and down the aisles selling popcorn, candy and drinks between acts. Place was packed too, 600+ attendance. Looks better each time I go there as the restorations still go on. To show how diverse their booking policy is, besides Oz in the big house there were current blockbusters in the other houses and a special showing of the original Godzilla (Gojira, subtitled) also going on.

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