Charles Cinema

185 Cambridge Street,
Boston, MA 02114

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The Charles Cinema was opened April 7, 1967, and had, for a time, the biggest movie screen in Massachusetts. It was a great place to see an ‘event’ movie, like “The Empire Strikes Back” or other blockbusters. The style was modern and simple. The Charles Cinema was the “Astor Plaza” of Boston: a top-notch presentation with a huge audience.

The Charles Cinema was built for the Walter Reade circuit. The Charles Cinema eventually became part of Loews and was closed in 1994.

Contributed by Ian Judge

Recent comments (view all 78 comments)

dickneeds111 on July 13, 2012 at 3:21 pm

To Dan P and others. When Reade opened the Charles it had the 2nd largest ccreen in downtown Boston. #1 was the Music Hall and # 2 was the Astor which was never owned or run by Sack or USA or Lowes. Gettysburg opened at the Coolidge Corner and then 3 weeks later at the Charles. Both theatres ran it in 70mm. I believe the CC is still equipped with 70mm. I don,t believe the CitiWang(Music Hall) has 70mm anymore.

HowardBHaas on July 14, 2012 at 8:54 am

For people who have been posting them here, and those who don’t know- there are exterior & auditorium photos of this one on cinematour. It doesn’t matter if other websites steal those photos. THIS website has a policy against that so those photos have been removed.

jendeaderick on October 25, 2012 at 1:22 am

When I was a kid, standing on line at the Charles was an essential part of the Star Wars experience, for all three movies. The line would wrap around the building. Waiting added to the excitement, made the whole thing an event.

Recently, some friends held their daughter’s birthday party at the Brattle, and screened a DVD of Star Wars. When the opening theme started, I was instantly back at the Charles, finally in my seat after a half hour in line.

rivest266 on May 11, 2013 at 12:04 pm

April 7th, 1967 grand opening ad uploaded here.

jkaufman on December 1, 2013 at 1:01 pm

just a refresher on the Star Wars opening in Boston spring 1977. I was working at the MGH, and the department of surgery there had a full-time photographer. he was friendly with the projectionist at the Charles and saw the opening of Star Wars with him. the film broke, and as part of the repair, our photographer came away with a still frame showing darth vader. he showed that to the resident surgeon staff and gave the movie rave reviews. we signed out our clinical duties the next day and took in the matinee, where the theater was only 1/3 full, and the audience was jumping off the seats. the movie was a “sleeper” and had scant advance notice. by two days later, with hugely favorable reviews, the lines were around the block!

RogerA on February 23, 2014 at 5:12 pm

The buzz about “Star Wars” was alive and well in London well before it was released. In Boston Sack management got rid of the union projectionists that were used to running the Charles and hired others. New prints don’t usually break. The 35mm print I saw at the Charles looked and sounded so bad I called Fox and complained. The operators didn’t even know how to make a proper splice. Fox brought in a 70mm print and I heard that they went through a number of 70mm prints during the run. Why the myth persists that The Charles had a large screen I will never know but in fact the screen at the Charles was not very big and was never the largest in Boston!

dickneeds111 on June 9, 2014 at 9:29 pm

Roger. Sorry to bust your bubble. But when the Charles first opened up by The Reade group it had the 2nd largest screen in Boston(not counting the Cinerama) next to the Music Hall(nee Metropolitan/Wang. The Astor was next. The Charles was equipped with 70mm from day one. Cinema 2&3 were added later by Sack/USA or Lowes. When Lowes took over they downsized the screen. Star Wars played in 70mm late in its engagement. I saw many movies there. Saw Ryan’s Daughter there on the big screen in 70mm and it was impressive.That was in 1970. Did not see Star Wars there because I was stationed elsewhere.

RogerA on October 18, 2014 at 1:25 pm

Well I worked at the Charles and The Astor the screen at the Charles was not that big so I don’t know where you got your information. Yes the Charles had Cinemeccanica 35/70 projectors with carbon arcs. They later converted to xenon and platters so one person could run all three screens. When Sack took over they reduced the screen size even further by masking it off.

dickneeds111 on March 26, 2015 at 12:56 pm

Sorry to disagree with you Roger but when I saw Ryan’s daughter with my wife at the Charles in it’s first week in 1970 it was presented in it’s original format of Super Panavision 70 it was on Boston’s 2nd biggest screen next to the Music Hall and a wonderful sound system. Having been a projectionist my self I do believe I know when a screen is big or small and also what type of sound they use.

thestarofmyworld on June 23, 2015 at 3:53 pm

I saw the premiere of the Empire Strikes Back at this theater. (I remember waiting a very long time to see it — maybe it was just that way for a six year old.) Great memories.

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