Harvard Square Theatre

10 Church Street,
Cambridge, MA 02138

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Joe Vogel
Joe Vogel on October 1, 2014 at 9:44 pm

Here is the article about the recently-opened University Theatre that appeared in the November 20, 1926, issue of Motion Picture News:

“Harvard Welcomes the New University Theatre

“Advance of Pictures Overcomes Opposition and a Playhouse Opens on Harvard Square

“WITH the opening of the University Theatre in Harvard Square, Cambridge, Mass., this week, Harvard University, oldest university in America, for the first time in its 290 years, has a theatre within its shadows. For years attempts have been made to secure permission to erect a theatre in Harvard Square, but opposition from business men and university faculty inevitably defeated the plans.

“Realizing the wonderful advance made in motion pictures and the importance of the position occupied by motion picture theatres, the conservatism which has kept theatres away from Harvard University has given way to a remarkable welcome to the new University Theatre and to its owners, Charles E. Hatfield, treasurer of Middlesex County and president of the University Theatre Co.; Lindsey Hooper, Boston financier, and Stanley Sumner, managing director of the new playhouse through whose efforts the company was organized and the theatre erected. Mr. Sumner’s success as owner of the Community Theatre in Newton, Mass., and other playhouses places him among the leading active theatre owners in New England.

“One of the features of the new University Theatre will be the showing of Harvard football game films the evening of the same day of the game. This has been made possible through arrangements made with the Pathe News.

“Co-operates With University

“The University Theatre aims to co-operate with Harvard officials, with the Harvard Dramatic organizations and other Harvard clubs, giving a type of entertainment which will appeal to Harvard students as well as to the public and providing a means in Cambridge, for the first time, for Harvard students to present dramatics. From its location the theatre Mill draw its audiences not only from Cambridge and Harvard University, but from a dozen towns bordering Harvard Square, which have direct traffic communication to this important transfer center.

“Although the theatre is now open, some of the finishing touches remain to be completed. At the invitation opening of the theatre many officials, Harvard faculty members, and those prominent in the film business were present. The opening was scheduled for eight o'clock. Not until three o'clock was work started removing the stagings inside the theatre; not until six o'clock were the first tests made with the projection equipment. The seating of the theatre was being completed as the first of the audience arrived. Yet so smoothly was the program carried out that the audience, had it not been otherwise informed, would have thought the entire program had been rehearsed until finished. The curtain, reproducing the famous painting of Washington taking command of the Continental Army on Cambridge Common, has not been completed and will be shown later. It is 33 feet long and 17 feet 4 inches high.

“Beauty of Design and Decoration

“The theatre is of the Italian Renaissance period of architecture, inspiration for it coming from the Davangatti Palace in Florence, Italy. Walls of the lobby are of imported traverline and even the ticket booth is suggestive of the windows of some dark-eyed senorita of old. The decorative scheme is a rather free adaptation of blending of the modern with the Italian and Pompeian. Carpetings were specially designed to give harmonious setting to the furnishings.

“In the seating, an advance has been made towards comfort of patrons. The seats, specially designed, are slightly higher than the customary seat and with a little more backward tilt, and heavily upholstered, adding materially to the comfort of the patron, whether short or tall.

“The house seats 1,915. It has a single balcony of cantilever type. The ladies' room is finished in Georgian style, giving a restful effect. Lighting fixtures throughout the house are a combination of wrought iron and brass and there is an emergency current supply from batteries, should the commercial circuit be closed for any purpose for a short time.

“Special attention has been given the projection room, which is patterned after that of the Metropolitan Theatre, Boston, except that it is located above the rear of the balcony.

“The policy calls for complete changes of program Sundays and Wednesdays, with Pathe News, comedy and two feature pictures, one stage presentation, and an orchestra and organ. Performances will be continuous, with three complete performances daily. Seats are reserved only for the evening performance.”

DICK3570
DICK3570 on October 1, 2014 at 12:50 pm

A correction on how the Theatre was split up. The balcony was divided down the middle. The main auditorium was never touched other than the balcony being sealed off. Theatres #4 and #5 were put in the backstage area on top of one another at right angles in back of the main screen. They built a long walkway down the right hand side of the building. They may have added on to the backstage area to give the theatres a better width. If you still look at the backstage area on Church St. the added on area has a slightly different color brick.

Even with the changes, this was still a first class place to go to.

Ron Newman
Ron Newman on September 30, 2014 at 3:36 am

What theatre in Somerville did she attend?

mrchangeover
mrchangeover on September 30, 2014 at 1:10 am

A night-time photo of the University Theatre (Harvard Square Theatre) from the early 1940’s was included in Episode 7 (A Strong and Active Faith) of Ken Burns' outstanding documentary “The Roosevelts”, shown last week on PBS. The marquee advertised “All That Money can Buy” (1941) and “The Clipper”. The photo can be seen briefly at the 22.55 mark of Episode 7. The narrator mentioned that one of FDR’s former Personal Secretaries went to a movie in Somerville, Massachusetts in July 1944 and saw a newsreel showing FDR after he was nominated to run again for re-election as president.She remarked on how ill he looked. Thanks to Dr David Guss at Tufts for confirming where the theatre was located.

rivest266
rivest266 on May 11, 2013 at 9:48 pm

Also the 1927 ad has been uploaded in the photo section.

rivest266
rivest266 on May 11, 2013 at 9:47 pm

This reopened as Harvard Square on December 27th, 1961.

PopcornNRoses
PopcornNRoses on March 29, 2013 at 4:54 pm

Stopped by the location on Wednesday night. You can still see inside through the front door and they haven’t done anything with it as yet. I wish Alamo would seize the opportunity and grab this location to come to metro Boston…::sigh::

PopcornNRoses
PopcornNRoses on January 17, 2013 at 5:13 pm

Anyone hear anything about the latest plans for the location yet? Been keeping an eye out but haven’t seen anything yet…

Ron Newman
Ron Newman on July 24, 2012 at 1:44 pm

Boston.com yesterday reported that AMC has sold the Harvard Square Theatre for $6.5 million to Cambridge-based Carpenter & Company, who own the Charles Hotel several blocks away.

“Richard Friedman, the president and chief operating officer of Carpenter & Company, said the company bought the building last week and he expects a plan will be place for the future of the property within two months.” He said that re-using the building as a theater is one of many options that will be considered.

Tinseltoes
Tinseltoes on July 19, 2012 at 8:14 pm

Renovations described in this 1962 trade article: Boxoffice

orsonwellescinema
orsonwellescinema on July 8, 2012 at 8:54 pm

Hey all;

A bunch of us film critics, cinephiles and whatnot will be gathering at the Border Cafe (near the Harvard Sq theater, on the corner to its right) tonight (Sunday, July 8th) at 8pm .. for a beer and to share some memories of this old place on it’s last day of operation. Feel free to join us!

Steve

Ron Newman
Ron Newman on July 6, 2012 at 11:22 pm

Rocky Horror Picture Show (with Full Body Cast) will move to Loews Boston Common, effective August 4. The last shows at Harvard Square will be tomorrow night, July 7, 9:30 pm and 12:30 am.

DirtyWater
DirtyWater on June 29, 2012 at 7:57 am

The first time I was at the University Theater was around 1956 when my mother brought me to see the Disney reissue of ‘Song of the South’ – the first real adult movie I saw there was ‘North by Northwest’ around 1959.

Even back then the clocks on either side of the screen almost never worked.

My favorite memories of the theater were in the 70’s when they had the double features that changed every couple of days if not daily.

I remember one gloomy rainy afternoon I was in a depressed state and went to the HST for the double feature – which was ‘Taxi Driver’ and “The Deerhunter'.

Oh I was in great shape after that 4 plus hours.

The last 20 or so years we have put up with the shortcomings of the layout because of the location. I don’t like Boston Common – Fenway is ‘OK’ but still a hike on the T.

Let’s be honest – this closing is more about AMC being bought by the Chinese a couple of months ago – and it is all about the real estate.

I hope the older woman who has sold tickets there for years in the daytime survives as the job kept her alive.

The big winner will be the Somerville Theater but they were doing fine before. Fresh Pond won’t see an uptick because that theater is not subway friendly.

Just a very sad end.

LaConnection
LaConnection on June 21, 2012 at 7:53 pm

Ah, the good old Harvard Square Theater. Double features, rock films like MAGICAL MYSTERY TOUR & THE SONG REMAINS THE SAME, midnight shows….

Surprised it lasted this long under the Loew’s and AMC banners. These chains only care about maximizing profits – not historical preservation or the movie-going pleasures of their neighbors.

Tinseltoes
Tinseltoes on June 21, 2012 at 3:30 pm

Here are three photos of the University Theatre in a 1935 trade journal:boxofficemagazine

HowardBHaas
HowardBHaas on June 21, 2012 at 1:23 pm

I enjoyed one movie in the main auditorium here which still gave and old fashioned real movie going experience. There’s no pictures online of the auditorium as it is now, or historic photos of lobby, auditorium, etc. Can somebodyplease now photo the main auditorium?

PopcornNRoses
PopcornNRoses on June 21, 2012 at 11:15 am

The loss of Harvard Square AMC will leave a huge gap in film going for students when they return in the fall. Instead of having a multiplex showing current films within walking distance, they will now have to take the T or drive to the nearest multiplex theaters, which if I’m not mistaken are Fresh Pond, Somerville Theater, Kendall Square, and AMC Boston Common. It leaves the Brattle Theatre and the Harvard Film Archive as the only theaters within walking distance.

With AMC Assembly Hill on the map but not yet under construction (to my knowledge) and not scheduled to open until the late fall of 2013, that leaves the entire upcoming school year devoid of a major chain multiplex that’s only a few minutes away. And Assembly Hill will be more than a “few minutes” away anyway, and you certainly won’t be able to walk there.

And it leaves the RHPS devotees nowhere to go on Saturday nights…:–)

BOOOO AMC – shame on you for closing Harvard Square! Shame Shame SHAME! It wasn’t the best theater, but we loved it all the same…

IanJudge
IanJudge on June 21, 2012 at 6:59 am

It’s sad, and make no bones about who is to blame – it’s AMC. They are cash-starved and sold the building – though it is a profitable location – for a quick paycheck. They have no idea how to operate theaters that are not within their business model (modern multiplexes with 8+ screens) and so this location did not see it’s potential under their ownership. While Loews was by no means perfect, they damned well knew how to maintain and run, and most importantly BOOK smaller theaters in urban areas like this. They would occasionally give the Kendall Sq. a run for their money on wider-release art films, but not AMC – they have NO imagination.

I am sure they merely see this location as part of the same marketplace where their new 12-plex at Assembly Row will go, so they look at it as simply an old location replaced eventually by a new one, but that is a false perception of the marketplace – locals can tell you that they are very distinctly different areas despite geographic mileage being so close. These morons in Kansas City (who in many ways can massively share the blame for dumbing-down and ruining the movie-going experience on a national level) should be ashamed. But I guess that’s what you get when your CEO is from Frito-Lay and Starbucks, you get a complete and utter disregard for showmanship, and for taking the time to know your market.

Ron Newman
Ron Newman on June 21, 2012 at 5:55 am

This is a very sad day for Harvard Square, for Cambridge, and for film exhbition throughout the Boston area.

I believe Harvard Square is the last remaining theatre from the old USACinemas chain to survive through merger first with Loews and then with AMC.

CSWalczak
CSWalczak on June 21, 2012 at 3:44 am

The theater is closing as of Sunday, July 8, 2012, according to the Harvard Crimson: View article

Ron Newman
Ron Newman on June 20, 2012 at 2:43 am

That would be sad. It would leave only the very specialized Brattle Theatre as the only cinema in all of Harvard Square.

IanJudge
IanJudge on June 20, 2012 at 12:14 am

Rumor around town is that the Harvard Square Theatre has been sold by AMC Theatres to a commercial developer who does not intend to keep the building in use as a theater but will instead most likely demolish it or redevelop it. We shall see what happens…

billwhite
billwhite on September 10, 2011 at 12:59 am

Tom, I had quit managing the theatre before you came in, and you rehired me as house manager.

Ringsight
Ringsight on July 7, 2011 at 4:40 pm

Does anyone recall seeing the Wizard of Oz on release in 1939 at the Theatre? Or have any documentation that it was shown? (I asked this before and got some useful feedback, but not a definitive yes or no). Thanks.

Ron Newman
Ron Newman on July 7, 2011 at 4:33 pm

What I reported here back in March 2010 seems to have been just a temporary aberration that lasted a week or so. AMC still advertises the Harvard Square Theatre, and all of its other local cinemas (Loews Boston Common, Braintree, Burlington, Loews Liberty Tree Mall in Danvers, Framingham, and Chestnut Hill) in the Globe’s “g” section.