Beacon Hill Theatre

1 Beacon Street,
Boston, MA 02108

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Beacon Theatre exterior

Viewing: Photo | Street View

The original Beacon Theatre was opened in 1913 by movie theatre pioneer Jacob Lourie. 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 95 comments)

Mike Rogers
Mike Rogers on June 26, 2010 at 4:21 pm

Ron ,Interesting answer to your Question on Sunday showings can be found in an old Motion Picture Almanac.I have one from 1956 and they have everystate and Blue laws on Sundays.If you could ever get ahold of one these Almanacs you would have any Question Answered on Sunday showings.IF you have a state in Question I would be glad type down the Blue laws for that state in Question.

dick
dick on November 22, 2010 at 3:53 pm

I ONLY went to the Beacon Hill 2 time. One time to see The Towering Inferno because Westgate Mall was sold ot and the other time was to see THIS IS CINERAMA re-release. My wife and I were so disappointed that it was in single projector panavision and no stereo that we walked out After I got Home I was so dissapointed and mad that I sat down and wrote a 7page letter to Sack theatres explaining my distress. About a week later I received a letter with 12 passes to any Sack theatres for free. Sack/USA theatres sure let their properties fall into disrepair didn’t they.

Eyecatcher
Eyecatcher on December 27, 2010 at 3:34 pm

I remember the second version of this theater with fondness.

It was deep underground, reached by a long, wide flight of stairs. The decor was very stark and “modern,” almost clinical. However, the equipment was all brand-new and technically excellent.

The auditorium seated between 800 or 900. The curtainless screen was 55 feet wide and concave. It was, at the time, the only curved movie screen in downtown Boston (the Cinerama having closed a few years earlier). The booth had 35/70mm projectors, and was capable of showing 35mm with monaural optical and four-track stereo sound, and 70mm with six-track stereo sound.

Beneath the screen was a curious barrier or grille made of white wooden slats, tilted inward towards the screen. It looked like an ultra-wide cow-catcher on a locomotive! Never did figure out what it was for.

My first visit was for the 70mm reissue of THIS IS CINERAMA in 1972. Although probably not as exciting as the original 3-projector version, if you sat up close (as I did) you got a very powerful sense of depth and participation. The soundtrack was played at VERY high volume, and sounded excellent, as did most of the films I saw at this venue.

Many other 70mm films played at the Beacon over the years, including blow-ups of PAPILLON and THE WIND AND THE LION, the re-issue of THE EXORCIST, and the 3-D reissue of HOUSE OF WAX. They also showed the 3-D version of ANDY WARHOL’S FRANKENSTEIN, which was X-rated, although I managed to get in anyway. :)

A pair of large full-range speakers were installed on the side walls of the theater for the “Sound 360” showing of DAMNATION ALLEY. These remained in place until the theater was converted to a triplex in the late ‘70s. The conversion cut the theater in half lengthwise, retaining the curved screen for the main auditorium, and adding two very small auditoriums in the rear.

The last film I saw there was Bertolucci’s 1900.

MrDJDude
MrDJDude on June 19, 2011 at 11:13 pm

Walked past the former location yesterday(6/19)– still looks the same as the street view(which is circa 2009) Pressed Sandwiches closed almost a year and a half ago.

I will say that looking at the structure, it has the look of a movie theater marquee, even with the signage on it.

dickneeds111
dickneeds111 on March 26, 2012 at 3:51 pm

The House Of Wax was never released in 70mm. I don’t know when it played the Beacon Hill. I do know that it played the Astor and also was re-released about 1972-72 and played the old Exeter on a new years eve.

dickneeds111
dickneeds111 on April 29, 2012 at 10:44 am

Please remove this theatre from your list of Cinerama theatres. It never was one. It did play a re-release of the 70mm version of This Is Cinerama in the 70’s. It was awful. Not a very big 70mm screen(flat) poor sound because you could hear the subway trains running underneath. This was typical of Sack(USA) theatres who let there theatres fall apart and become dumps. Boston had only one real CINERAMA Theatre and that was the (RKO) Boston Cinerama on Washington St.

sweetmel
sweetmel on May 19, 2012 at 9:58 pm

I worked there in the 80’s. I remember Breakin and crush groove playing there and at the pi alley as well. It was my after school job and a lot of fun.

CSWalczak
CSWalczak on June 7, 2012 at 11:59 pm

Note to dickneeds111 regarding 1952’s “House of Wax”: Some of the 3-D prints of the film issued during the 1972 re-release were on 70mm stock though not projected in any of the ratios that were typical of films actually shot in or blown up to 70mm.

A company called Stereovision devised a way of printing the two original 35mm images needed to produce the 3-D effect by printing them side by side on 70mm film stock and then using a special lens and and a revolving shutter that alternately blanked out one image then the other but so rapidly that the switching back and forth could not be perceived by the viewer of the film. This meant that only one projector would be needed whereas during the early-1950s 3-D craze, two projectors were needed which caused a number of problems and necessitated an intermission to change reels.

The same company also devised a method of projecting 3-D using 35mm film by stacking the two images for each projected frame on top of each other, and again using a special shutter during projection.

dickneeds111
dickneeds111 on July 24, 2012 at 8:50 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
Nataloff on August 15, 2012 at 6:28 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.

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