Beacon Hill Theatre

1 Beacon Street,
Boston, MA 02108

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Beacon Theatre, Boston

Viewing: Photo | Street View

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 103 comments)

dickneeds111 on July 24, 2012 at 10:50 am

To CS. I just looked up on wikipedia about the 70mm version of House of Wax. They said that the 70mm version played at the Metropolitan theatre. The Beacon Hill may have pled it in 70mm or srtereovision 35mm but it was after the Met. I saw it at the Astor which could have been either format and also at the Exeter which must have been in 35mm. Sorry about doubting you on a 70mm version but I had never heard of that version.

Nataloff on August 15, 2012 at 8:28 pm

We used to call the second version of this theatre “the bunker.” You had to walk down a humongous flight of stairs to get there after buying your ticket at street level, and then walk up them afterward when the show was over. (So much for the Americans with Disabilities Act.) The rumbling that occurred every so often was the Green Line MBTA passing nearby underground. And everyone is right about the reissue of “This is Cinerama” that played there. It was wrong in every possible way.

Joe Vogel
Joe Vogel on June 1, 2014 at 2:03 pm

An article about the Beacon Theatre in the June 9, 1917, issue of The Moving Picture World said that the Beacon had recently reopened after a fifteen-day shutdown for a $75,000 renovation. The project included both refurbishing the house and mechanical improvements such as a new ventilation system. The Beacon Theatre had originally cost $100,000 to build, and had opened on February 17, 1910.

dickneeds111 on June 9, 2014 at 10:47 pm

Have to revise my comment. I went to the Beacon Hill one other time to see Little Big Man. Very noisy then with the Subway running underneath.

Cinerama on April 4, 2016 at 1:27 pm

Ad for the 1973 re-release of This is Cinerama in 70mm now on the Cinerama web site – .

DavidZornig on May 9, 2017 at 6:52 pm

1956 photo courtesy of the Dirty Old Boston Facebook page.

MikeT on March 11, 2018 at 11:21 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 11:28 am

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

Nataloff on March 26, 2018 at 12:14 am

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 on May 7, 2018 at 10:15 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.

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