Stuart Theatre

700 Washington Street,
Boston, MA 02130

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1976 photo courtesy of the Dirty Old Boston Facebook page.

Viewing: Photo | Street View

Originally opened as the Unique Theatre, it was renamed Stuart Theatre in 1927. A small unluxurious low-admission theatre that showed double bills of popular and action-type movies for decades. It was located at the beginning of the Washington Street “theatre row”. It later became part of the Pussycat Theatres chain. In recent years it was converted into a MacDonald’s restaurant, which closed in 2015.

Contributed by Gerald A. DeLuca

Recent comments (view all 45 comments)

allyn on March 18, 2010 at 8:20 pm

This is the place at which I have discovered my homosexuality.

I have such fond memories of this place! I was a 20 year old student when I discovered this place. Some of the men there; I wonder where they are now??

Well aside from that, here is what I remember:

First of all, it was on right hand side of the building. What is tricky is the fact they subleased the front right hand corner (about 100 square feet) to a sandwich shop. So, the very corner of that building was the sandwich
shop. The theater itself, however, surrounded the sandwich shop and the
projection boot was on top of the sandwich shop.

Inside, the restrooms were not astride the screen as someone else mentioned
but in the back.

As you enter, there is a bulkhead hard on your right (that is the side of the
sandwich shop). On your left is the entrance of the mens restroom. It was down
a short flight of about four stairs.

Going past that, both the left and right bulkhead open up to the theater itself. If you proceed around to the left (which is behind the left hand
section of seats, you would see the entrance to the womens restroom.

What was frustrating was that there was no vestibule. The front entrance doors were directly exposed to the screen. Whenever someone entered or left, there would be a HUGE splash of light on the screen and the picture would be wiped out.

An the reason that you heard the projector was that the projection booth, if
you want to call it that, was not fully enclosed. It had partial wall, similar to the cubicles found in offices today.

Perhaps modern cubicle offices go the idea from the Stuart’s projection booth???

And the sound system? It had less power than the mp3 player I use while riding my bicycle (I am a 40 mile per day bicycle commuter in Portland, Oregon). You had to strain to hear the movie.

Of course, about 70 percent of the people there did not care whether the
sound or projection even worked.

I would go there on Sunday afternoons (I went to college in Worcester, so Sundays were the only times I could go there). No matter the season; Winter, Spring, Summer, or Fall; the Stuart was crowded on Sunday afternoons.

Aside from myself, on some of those days, the average age would be pushing 50 to 55.

And, by the way, the admission in the early 70’s was 50 cents. And it was
older movies.

Portland, Oregon
Sewer, Welder, Engraver, Light, Metal, an Fabric artist

rsalters (Ron Salters)
rsalters (Ron Salters) on April 26, 2010 at 11:04 am

By the early 1970s when Cleara attended the Stuart, the washrooms must have been relocated to the rear. When I went there, 10 – 15 years earlier, they were located down front, on each side of the screen. Older movies were the fare, with the emphasis on cowboy/westerns, adventure, mystery, war movies, etc. My memory is that the projection booth up back was completely enclosed at that time.

JayAllenSanford on June 29, 2010 at 2:53 pm

Reputed Mafia kingpin (according to the Meese Commission report) Mickey Zaffarano of the NYC/Times Square Pussycat had his hand in this Boston ‘Cat, as well as its sister theater the West End.

Reciting from the U.S. Department of Justice Report “Organized Crime Involvement in Pornography” (June 8, 1977), “Major pornography figure Michael Zaffarano is said to have connections with the pornography business in Boston. His brother-in-law, Anthony Carl Mascolo, received financial backing from Zaffarano in January 1976 in order to open two pornographic theaters in Boston. They are known as the Pussycat Cinema 1 and the Pussycat West End Cinema.”

An article chronicling the history of the Pussycat chain was published today at View link

dick on November 27, 2010 at 8:54 pm

I never saw Earthquake at the Saxon but I did take my son there to see Battlestar Galactica in sensurround. I did see Earthquake at shppers world in Framingham and Midway and Rollercoaster in Braintree. In all 3 theatres the speakwers for the rumbling bass were behind the last row of seats and you saw them as you walked in. It didn’t bother me a bit. Framingham was the 1st New England theatre to install sensurround. Sack/USA was too cheap to let Universal install it so they left it up to General Cinema. Sack/Usa didn’t even invest money to fix or clean up there theatres. General Cinema eventually let this happen to them. The neatest chain here was Lockwood&Gordon(no downtown theatres though, only in the suburds. They kept nice theatres until they sold out to Sonderling who let them fall apart.

rsalters (Ron Salters)
rsalters (Ron Salters) on February 16, 2011 at 10:39 am

In a 1918 Boston street directory, this theater is listed as the Unique Theatre, at 700 Washington St. downtown.

martybearass on August 27, 2011 at 11:54 am

hhhmmmm Allyn bet we had some fun there inb the 70’s ;) I used to frequent there MANY afternoons and was NOT in my 50’s :)

dickneeds111 on March 30, 2012 at 9:11 pm

Went to the Stuart a few times in the late 50’s and very early 60’s. Always scary. The projrction was fully enclosed then and was on top of the sandwich shop. The projection angle was not straight on but a severe angle shooting right to left causing A keystone effect. I didn;t dare go to the restrooms down front by the screen. I held it all in until after the movies which were almost always a western and a war movie. They only played there for maybe 2 days and the program changed and the theatre was open 24hrs.

Joe Vogel
Joe Vogel on March 23, 2014 at 4:02 pm

The Unique Theatre became the Stuart Theatre in 1927, according to the October 28 issue of Motion Picture News:

“The Unique Theatre, Boston, has been renamed the Stuart Theatre and is under the management of Charles A. Oilman, formerly of the Alhambra Theatre at Quincy, Mass. The theatre has been extensively remodeled.”

dickneeds111 on February 16, 2015 at 6:33 pm

An answer to old questions. Earthquake never played the Gary. It played at the Saxon. After that the next Sensurround movie was Battlestar Galactica. Earthquake played at Shoppers World in Framingham for about 3-4 weeks before it came to the Saxon. G>C> Cinema shoppers World was packed all the time for Earthquake. The 2 other Sensurround movies Rollercoaster and Midway played at the G.C. theatres at south shore plaza in Braintree.

Ron Newman
Ron Newman on August 4, 2015 at 6:23 pm

The McDonald’s that replaced this theatre has closed.

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