Beacon Hill Theatre

1 Beacon Street,
Boston, MA 02108

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Beacon Theatre, Boston

The original Beacon Theatre was opened February 17, 1910 by movie theatre pioneer Jacob Lourie and to the designs of architect Clarence H. Blackhall. The building at 47-53 Tremont Street was built in 1874 as a bank. In 1948, the architectural firm William Riseman Associates remodeled the theatre and it was renamed Beacon Hill Theatre from November 10, 1948.

Ben Sack allegedly won this theatre in a poker game, and it became the beginning of what eventually became the regionally dominant Sack Theatres chain.

From at least World War II through the 1960’s, the Beacon/Beacon Hill Theatre was one of Boston’s premiere art houses. In 1969, it was torn down and replaced with the One Beacon Street tower, which contained a new single-screen Beacon Hill Theatre in its basement.

The second Beacon Hill Theatre, which opened in 1971, featured primarily first-run Hollywood films. It was triplexed in the early-1980’s and briefly became an art house again, until Sack opened the Copley Place multiplex.

During its last few years, the Beacon Hill Theatre showed mostly B-grade action and exploitation films, mixed in with an occasional move-over from one of Sack’s better-quality downtown houses.

In 1992, it became the first of many former Sack Theatres that Loews would close over the following decade.

Contributed by Gerald A. DeLuca, John Toto, Ron Newman

Recent comments (view all 109 comments)

MikeT
MikeT on March 11, 2018 at 9:21 am

The beacon hill (along with the pi alley and the old Savoy) was one of three theatres the BPD would permit movies to be shown if the film was expected to draw a predominantly African-American audience. The police were very eager to keep such audiences in certain venues.

I’m Ben Sack’s grandson and he told me the story.

Ron Newman
Ron Newman on March 11, 2018 at 9:28 am

What law did the BPD cite in order to justify this restriction?

Nataloff
Nataloff on March 25, 2018 at 10:14 pm

Hi Mike: You’re on the money with the redlining of your grandfather’s theatres — or perhaps we should call it blacklining. It’s also why he’d open films at the 57 and Cheri date and date and watch the audiences bifurcate. I did his publicity in 1973 and 1974 and can tell you that it wasn’t an arrangement with the Boston Police Department as much as with the industry’s racism. I’m sorry to put it that way, but I was in those Saturday exec meetings at the Savoy and heard it. (BTW, my love to Ina and David.)

CinnCine1
CinnCine1 on May 7, 2018 at 8:15 pm

Hi Mike and Nataloff, I find the story about the redlining of those Boston theaters astounding, for lack of a better word. Thanks for confirming what I knew was true based on my experience growing up Black in Boston in the 70’s. Wow. The Pi Alley and the Beacon Hill were my go to theaters after work. My office was in One Boston Place, now Mellon Place, so we would run down to the Pi and get hot popcorn on our breaks.

luftweg
luftweg on June 27, 2018 at 7:22 am

I understand that the (Keith) Cinerama theater on Washington St. had shown ‘2001: A Space Odyssey’ upon initial ‘road-show’ release. But was that the ONLY theater in Boston to do so? Was it ever shown at that time, in the old Beacon Hill Sack Cinema (before it was altered), in Cinerama (70 mm, 6 track audio), with the overture and intermission?

MSC77
MSC77 on June 27, 2018 at 11:41 am

luftweg: The Boston Cinerama had an area exclusive during the initial roadshow run of “2001: A Space Odyssey.” The film did not play any other area theaters until many months later. For a breakdown of the film’s original run, see (Page 2 of): Still the Ultimate Trip: Remembering 2001: A Space Odyssey On Its 50th Anniversary.

MSC77
MSC77 on June 27, 2018 at 11:47 am

luftweg: There was a 70mm run of “2001” at Beacon Hill in the summer of 1974 (though I can’t say if that was the only time it ever played there).

luftweg
luftweg on June 29, 2018 at 6:32 pm

MSC77: Thanx for the response. I definitely saw the film somewhere in ‘downtown’ Boston in 1968 when I was little. However, I guess I don’t remember the name of the theater (because for years I was ‘sure’ it was the Beacon Hill Theater — actually right up until just this last month!)… I do remember the presentation being called Cinerama (which didn’t mean much to me at the time, except that it was supposed to be ‘panoramic’)… The theater had a very curved screen which was behind a curtain, I believe it was a deep red velvet curtain…. It was a sort of scary experience…. I recall the spooky ‘overture’ music playing, and that the theater lights were turned pretty dark for it… Maybe I didn’t quite understand how ‘evil’ HAL was supposed to be, but I was actually sad for HAL when he said he was ‘afraid’ and dying…. Then, some many months after seeing the movie, I had a tonsil surgery, and when I was put under anesthesia, I had a a dream, which turned into a nightmare; I didn’t realize at the time, but it was a ‘modified’ version of the stargate sequence, where I was ‘falling’ down an endless tube lined with these flourescent blue-green spheres, which then turned to red as the speed of my falling increased (this was of course the nightmare part, and I awoke from it lying on a recovery bed with a very sore throat)… It seems that, if the roadshow was the only time back in 1968, when the ‘overture’ played, and if the screen was deeply curved, it must have been the Keith-Cinerama?

dickneeds111
dickneeds111 on August 30, 2018 at 2:50 pm

I saw 2001 in Cinerama the 1st time at the Seattle Cinerama theatre. I then saw it at the Golden Gate Cinerama a few weeks later. Both times I never figured it out. Seattle was a great Cinerama Theatre. The Golden Gate was OK. In San Francisco it was annoying because they kept passing Marijuana0 cigarettes up and down the aisles. No one stopped it. It was legal? to smoke in Calif. Theatres back then but only in the balconies. I was in the orchestra. It was a sickening smell. I couldn,t touch it be cause I was in my Navy uniform then. When I got back to the ship that night I must have reeked of green smoke. Nobody said anything. As far as the film in Boston it played at the Boston Cinerama for over 30 weeks exclusively. After that it played everywhere but in 35mm. Over the yrs it has played in 70mm reissues at the Beacon Hill, Coolidge Corner and Somerville theatres. Just a couple of weeks ago it played as a Fathom event in digital event at several theatres in the area.

Comfortably Cool
Comfortably Cool on October 8, 2018 at 6:57 am

Beacon described in 1922 as “The Shrine of Photoplays” in a shared ad with the Modern displayed here

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