Beacon Hill Theatre

1 Beacon Street,
Boston, MA 02108

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Showing 1 - 25 of 103 comments

CinnCine1 on May 8, 2018 at 4:15 am

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.

Nataloff on March 26, 2018 at 6:14 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.)

Ron Newman
Ron Newman on March 11, 2018 at 4:28 pm

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

MikeT on March 11, 2018 at 4:21 pm

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.

DavidZornig on May 10, 2017 at 12:52 am

1956 photo courtesy of the Dirty Old Boston Facebook page.

Cinerama on April 4, 2016 at 7:27 pm

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

dickneeds111 on June 10, 2014 at 4:47 am

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.

Joe Vogel
Joe Vogel on June 1, 2014 at 8:03 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.

Nataloff on August 16, 2012 at 2:28 am

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 on July 24, 2012 at 4:50 pm

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 on June 8, 2012 at 7:59 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 on May 20, 2012 at 5:58 am

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 on April 29, 2012 at 6:44 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 on March 26, 2012 at 11:51 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 on June 20, 2011 at 7:13 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 on December 27, 2010 at 11:34 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 on November 22, 2010 at 11:53 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 27, 2010 at 12:21 am

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 27, 2010 at 12:03 am

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.

…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 1:02 pm

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 12:46 pm

Any idea why it could not play on Sundays?

Gerald A. DeLuca
Gerald A. DeLuca on June 24, 2010 at 12:08 pm

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 6:29 pm

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

pmont on October 18, 2009 at 12:36 am

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:

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:

MPol on January 9, 2009 at 5:20 am

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