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 99 comments)

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 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 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 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 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 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.

Joe Vogel
Joe Vogel on June 1, 2014 at 12:03 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 8:47 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 11:27 am

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

DavidZornig on May 9, 2017 at 4:52 pm

1956 photo courtesy of the Dirty Old Boston Facebook page.

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