Abbey Cinema

600 Commonwealth Avenue,
Boston, MA 02215

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The Abbey Cinema opened as a single-screener sometime in the 1960s, and in succeeding years became known as the Nickelodeon (the FIRST Nickelodeon, not the SECOND which was to be located a short distance away and which itself has been demolished.) Franco Zeffirelli’s “Romeo and Juliet” had a very long run here in 1968-1969…

“now in the 10th month of a highly successful engagement,” a newspaper article indicated in July of 1969.

Contributed by Gerald A. DeLuca

Recent comments (view all 33 comments)

danpetitpas on August 18, 2008 at 2:07 pm

I didn’t see this mentioned on either this page or the Nickelodeon page, so I’m proud to be the one to bring up this little bit of history.

Right after I graduated from college in 1978, I was looking around for work, and came across an ad to be the manager of the Nickelodeon Theatre in Kenmore Square, which was the old Loew’s Abbey. I had an interview with the owner who introduced himself as Joel, I think, which research reveals would have been Joel Tranum. He told me he owned the Nickelodeon on the Cape, which showed independent and revival films, and he was going to play the same in Boston. He had applied a fresh coat of paint to the theater, and things were pretty tidy, although I remember that the main theater had columns that blocked some views of the screen, and that some seats were too far on the left and the right to be able to see anything but a distorted view. We talked for a while, but I got the impression I was too young for him, and he tried to scare me off by saying that he could only pay me $3 or $4 an hour and I would have to open the theater at 11 am, close it at midnight, or 2 am on the weekends and work 6 days a week, which sounded great to me at the time. But he eventually hired a slightly older woman as manager.

At first, the theater only played “classic” movies. I remember seeing a washed out print of Forbidden Planet at a matinee with only one other customer in the place. What had happened was movie distributors considered Boston/Brookline/Cambridge one market, and any theater that won a film had an exclusive engagement in the area. But I think in six months, Joel had convinced the distributors to consider the cities as separate markets and business really took off at the Nick with first-run indie movies. The place would be packed most nights and weekends.

USA Cinemas took instant notice of this new competitor in its midst, and where it had ignored indie films before, it suddenly took a great interest in the theater, and I think, in about a year’s time, it bought the Nick and embraced indie programming, eventually moving to more mainstream specialty films from the studios and larger independent distributors.

According to an article I found from the Burlington (VT) Free Press in 2003, Tranum opened Nickelodeons in Portland, Maine and Burlington, Vermont, in addition to the one on Cape Cod, and he eventually sold them out to bigger theater chains. The article identified him as a Boston-based developer.

As far as I know, the Nick was the only challenger to USA Cinemas' monopoly in Boston in 25 years, and it was quickly bought out to keep a lock on the market.

Ron Newman
Ron Newman on August 18, 2008 at 2:17 pm

USACinemas did eventually buy the Nickelodeon, but not until 1986. By that time, the Nick had moved out of this location and into a new building a block away. See the Nickelodeon page for more information.

danpetitpas on August 18, 2008 at 8:47 pm

Thanks, Ron, I stand corrected. I thought it was quicker than that. I might have had a job for 8 years there if they had hired me.

I came across a quote from Ty Barr in the October 16, 2005 Boston Globe where he said the Nickelodeon “…became the first art house to outgross a mainstream chain.”

suilleabhain on August 20, 2010 at 9:50 am

I saw the Beatles" second film, “Help,” with my Mom when it was released in 1965 (I was six). Does anybody know what theater in Downtown Boston it opened at?

Ron Newman
Ron Newman on September 20, 2010 at 12:57 pm

Definitely not this one, which opened in 1968 (see earlier comments)

xyu95 on December 30, 2010 at 12:16 pm

I worked at the Loews Abbey Cinema from around 1972-1974. I remember almost everyone . Bill Glazer was the G manager.He got shot there for refusing to give a robber $. Chris Davitt was the Projectionist, Maria Darcangelo, Diane Gardner,Donna Tessari, Donna Frost,Al Pignat,Carolann Mahoney,Jim Palladino,John Rafferty, Mark Chalpin.
we had lots of fun there.around the corner was this club The Box. Aerosmith played there.I cant for the Life for me remember the biggest movie that played there, except some R Rated Cheerleading one.

dickneeds111 on May 31, 2012 at 12:30 pm

I believe the biggest movie that played there was Zefferelli’s Romeo & Juliet. If it opened here then I believe it played for about a year. If it didn’t open here and was on a moveover It still played a long time.

Bruce_Bartoo on July 19, 2012 at 9:34 pm

A further detail on Bill Glazer’s shooting which I heard a few years later was that when he submitted a request for a new Loews jacket because the one he had been wearing had a bullet hole in it, the company depreciated the damaged jacket and only gave him partial payment for it.

David192 on March 28, 2013 at 9:45 am

Note to Phil, we about wore a hole through the James Taylor “Fire & Rain” album. We had a Sony r/r tape deck in the original theater.

I think I ran “Last Picture Show” about a million times (was an operator back then). I can still recite most of the lines in the script….

rivest266 on May 11, 2013 at 11:48 am

This opened on March 27th, 1968

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