Beacon Hill Theatre

1 Beacon Street,
Boston, MA 02108

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Nataloff
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.

dickneeds111
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.

CSWalczak
CSWalczak on June 8, 2012 at 1:59 am

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.

sweetmel
sweetmel on May 19, 2012 at 11:58 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.

dickneeds111
dickneeds111 on April 29, 2012 at 12:44 pm

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.

dickneeds111
dickneeds111 on March 26, 2012 at 5:51 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.

MrDJDude
MrDJDude on June 20, 2011 at 1:13 am

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.

Eyecatcher
Eyecatcher on December 27, 2010 at 5:34 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.

dick
dick on November 22, 2010 at 5:53 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.

Mike Rogers
Mike Rogers on June 26, 2010 at 6:21 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.

Gerald A. DeLuca
Gerald A. DeLuca on June 26, 2010 at 6:03 pm

The cover of Boxoffice magazine, April 28, 1958, had a montage of Ben Sack with four of his theatres: the Saxon, the Capri, the Beacon Hill, and the Gary.
http://issuu.com/boxoffice/docs/boxoffice_042858

…and an article on Sack and his success with the acquisition of Boston theatres:
View link

Gerald A. DeLuca
Gerald A. DeLuca on June 24, 2010 at 7:02 am

I noticed this with certain other films in that period with “adult content.” Apparently it was a type of local blue-law restriction on certain entertainments deemed inapropriate for Sundays.

Another related item I found was that later in 1951 the manager of the Delavan Theatre in Delavan, Wisconsin, quit after the Lions Club protested the showings of “Bitter Rice.” Many locals expressed indignation and suggested that the theatre should be boycotted.

Ron Newman
Ron Newman on June 24, 2010 at 6:46 am

Any idea why it could not play on Sundays?

Gerald A. DeLuca
Gerald A. DeLuca on June 24, 2010 at 6:08 am

Item in Boxoffice magazine, January 6, 1951:

George Kraska, managing director of the Beacon Hill, said that the opening day of the Italian film “Bitter Rice,” broke every record for the showing of a foreign film in the house and that “it looks like a six weeks' or longer run.” The picture cannot play Sundays. The previous record for the theatre was held by “The Bicycle Thief,” which ran eight weeks.

Ron Newman
Ron Newman on February 8, 2010 at 12:29 pm

The Carving Station restaurant was replaced by another called Pressed Sandwiches, but now that has closed as well.

pmont
pmont on October 17, 2009 at 6:36 pm

Regarding Ron’s post from June 2005 — “The book also says that "on November 10, 1948, a refurbished Beacon became the Beacon Hill Theatre” — I came across an article on the refurb of this & two other NE theatres in the Motion Picture Herald’s Better Theatre’s section (12/18/1948). Included are various before & after images of the exterior and interior, as well as a floorplan and some interesting prose.

You can see the images here: http://preview.tinyurl.com/yloxt58

I couldn’t Photoshop the interior images into anything worthwhile, so they’re not in that album. You can see those images & read the article, if you’d like. I’ve made the PDF available here: http://preview.tinyurl.com/yfxpvjt

MPol
MPol on January 8, 2009 at 11:20 pm

Could be, Ron. I think that I may have also viewed the Beatles film “Yellow Submarine” there, too.

Ron Newman
Ron Newman on January 8, 2009 at 9:39 pm

You probably saw all of those at the first Beacon Hill Theatre, the one that was torn down in 1969.

MPol
MPol on January 8, 2009 at 8:18 pm

The Beacon Hill Theatre….yup—I remember it very well. I saw a number of movies there, including the movie “Fantasia”, which I saw three times during the fall of 1963, as a seventh grader, due to attending friends' birthday parties, and one with some family friends when my mom had just given birth to my younger brother. Afew years later, I saw the movie “101 Dalmations”, which was also cool, and I think I may have even seen “Mary Poppins” there, too.

Ron Newman
Ron Newman on May 1, 2008 at 11:56 am

The former entrance to this theatre is now a sandwich restaurant called The Carving Station.

Tom10
Tom10 on May 15, 2007 at 8:04 am

If I recall correctly, the emergency exits in the theater opened into the adjacent underground garage near the ramp for the cars, so in an emergency, there was a direct, unobstructed, and relatively fireproof, exit up to Tremont Street. After the theater closed, they knocked down the walls and created more parking.

RonnieD
RonnieD on May 14, 2007 at 7:03 am

I only went to the “new” Beacon Hill Theater once. Did not care for it at all. It was down what seemed like an endless flight of wide stairs and gave me a very uncomfortable feeling that if any emergency occurred (other than a nuclear disaster) being underground felt precarious to me. I remember the spanking new theater feeling very clinical and cold nothing ornate or individualizing about it and I think the dominant color scheme was white. JoeyO could confirm or refute it. The film was Scorsese’s “Alice Doesn’t Live Here Anymore”.

RonnieD
RonnieD on May 11, 2007 at 8:52 am

This site is amazing. I enjoy the wealth of information and everyone’s fond remembrances.
My own recollections of the “old” or original Beacon Hill, the single screen theater above ground at the corner of Beacon and Tremont Streets are from the late 1960’s. I use to sometimes cut classes to attend the daytime screenings. The first time I went there, I remember having a hard time finding the theater because the address was 1 Beacon St and the entrance was on Tremont Street. Go figure. I remember asking several people if they knew where the Beacon Hill Theater was.
I thought this theater was not as ornate or stylish as some of the other Sack houses (Savoy, Music Hall, or the Saxon). As I remember, the auditorium was rather shoe-boxy rather than fan shaped and seemed smaller than the other theaters with a smaller screen more suited to art films rather than glossy Hollywood movies. (The great and much appreciated photo provided by TC illustrates that). Strangely, I don’t recall the two balconies lining the side walls. Films I remember seeing at the Beacon Hill: Louis Malle’s “Viva Maria”; Richardson’s “The Loved One”; Truffaut’s “Fahrenheit 451”; Stanley Donen’s “Two For the Road”.

joeyO
joeyO on February 18, 2007 at 7:51 pm

Very interesting having found this thread. I was an usher at the Beacon Hill from around 1975 to 1978. I’d love to hear from any old friends who worked there. Some of the things I remember the most and thought was so cool were the underground exits that catacombed along the right side when it was one big theater… and the candy girl that I fell in love with too… Lots of laughs, I also got chosen in Boston magazine for number 3 of the top ten most boring jobs in Massachusettes working as the ticket taker there when I was 15. It was just beginning to struggle badly in the late 70s with crowds of 45 normal on any given weeknight amd 80 on a weekend night in what I remember being an 837 seat theater but I could be wrong with that number (it was long ago and my mind was on the candy girl :) ). I’d be happy to answer any questions on this place or hear from the people who became my best friends that I’ve lost touch with.