Orson Welles Cinema

1001 Massachusetts Avenue,
Cambridge, MA 02138

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Vintage Orson Welles Cinema Program covers

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Opened as the Esquire Theatre on February 14, 1964. Later the name was changed to the Orson Welles Cinema. Over the years two small additional screening rooms were added that were separate from the larger main auditorium.

The theatre specialized in first run art and independent films, and had some occasional revival series. In the mid-1980s there was a fire in the theatre, and it was shuttered after that and the space put to other commercial use.

Contributed by Gerald A. DeLuca

Recent comments (view all 127 comments)

rsalters (Ron Salters)
rsalters (Ron Salters) on April 28, 2012 at 7:02 pm

Someone is working on a documentary history of the Orson Welles Cinema. I read about just a few days ago but now cannot find the article. There was a color photo showing the actor Jon Lithgow sitting with the director. Jon Lithgow was quoted as saying something to the effect that his first paid job in the entertainment industry was at the Welles when he was a student. I think that this article was in the Boston Herald.

eltotheoran on May 14, 2012 at 12:23 am

I am actually the Production Manager of the documentary you’re talking about on the Orson Welles. It was actually Tommy Lee Jones that we interviewed here’s the article: http://bostonherald.com/track/inside_track/view/20220427inside_track_headline.

If any of you have a strong affiliation with the theater please get in touch with me. We are currently looking to interview people who worked at the theater, went to the film school, etc. Please email me at and tell me about your connection to the Orson Welles Cinema!


jana118 on September 14, 2012 at 9:02 pm

I remember watching “Performance” when the popcorn maker started smoking and we were supposed to evacuate the theater. But people were lagging behind to see the end of the movie. I also saw “Marat/Sade” “Night of the Living Dead” and “The Harder They Come” there. I seem to remember that “The Last Temptation of Christ” played there, but info on Wikipedia says theater burned in 1986 – two years before its release. Was I hallucinating?

Ron Newman
Ron Newman on September 19, 2012 at 3:53 am

Maybe you are thinking of “Hail Mary”, another film that attracted Catholic protesters.

LAConnection on February 12, 2013 at 3:51 am

The 38th Annual Science Fiction Film Marathon is coming up this week at the Somerville Theater. The first 11 years were held at the Orson Welles. This is the one ongoing remnant of the theater still in existence (save for our memories and a few scrapbook pieces of memorabilia!).


SteveBurstein on June 13, 2013 at 6:29 pm

I went to the Welles' late 1973 Animation festival, which began with THE BETTY BOOP SCANDALS and continued with programs of pre-48 Warner cartoons which were hard to see on local TV then(The 50s Warner cartoons were the ones that were on all the time).

wombatzone on July 2, 2013 at 3:35 pm

Is there any way to find out, with reasonable certainty, which films were shown at the OWC in 1979?

Ron Newman
Ron Newman on July 2, 2013 at 3:41 pm

There is a way, but it’s laborious: looking through all the movie ads in the weekly Boston Phoenix or Real Paper, archived in the Boston Public Library (or perhaps elsewhere).

wombatzone on July 2, 2013 at 4:02 pm

My head hurts just thinking about it.

DavidZornig on November 27, 2015 at 8:57 pm

Photo of Orson Welles in front in January 1977 added. Photo courtesy of the Dirty Old Boston Facebook page.

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