Allston Cinemas

214 Harvard Avenue,
Boston, MA 02134

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This small, unremarkable-looking two-screen theatre was located in a non-descript office building in a busy student neighborhood.

In the 1970s and early 1980s, the Allston Cinema was an art house, part of the local Sonny & Eddy’s Theaters chain which also operated the Exeter Street in Boston, the Central Square and Galeria in Cambridge, and the Academy in Newton. The theater is best known for its two-year run of the cult classic “Harold and Maude” in the 1970s.

In 1985, it became part of the Showcase Cinemas chain, which never understood what to do with it. Showcase ignored the students and the other bohemian inhabitants of Allston Rock City, and instead programmed an endless succession of usually low-quality second run Hollywood films. When Showcase finally closed it in 2002, it was the last movie theatre in any outlying neighborhood of Boston.

Later in 2002, it reopened as the Bombay Cinemas, featuring Bollywood films from India. For a few months in 2003, the “Allston Cinema Underground” also used it to present various programs of kung-fu, Asian exploitation, action, and music documentary films.

As the Bombay Cinemas, the theater closed for good in early 2004, and was demolished later that year to make way for a Staples store.

Contributed by Ron Newman

Recent comments (view all 25 comments)

ResidentClinton on May 3, 2006 at 7:31 pm

Indeed, I was programmer for the Coolidge Corner Theatre, and also did the “Underground” programming at the Allston in the summer of 2003 (independent of the Coolidge). We did some fun programs there, everything from Kung Fu to Matthew Barney’s Cremaster films to a hip-hop film festival to, yes, antique stag loops (a program called The Good Old Naughty Days). Unfortunately, that programming was constantly butting heads with the Bombay’s programs, and so we parted ways. Not long after the building was sold and demolised.

ResidentClinton on May 3, 2006 at 7:38 pm

PS – And yes, it was a boxy, unpleasant, junked old theatre, but for some reason the Allston’s very crappiness made it endearing. Often I found myself gravitating up the street after working at a grand old theatre like the Coolidge, just to see the worst movies just at a little junky twin. Why? Well, even though it was no movie palace, the Allston was a throwback to a different era, when neighborhood theatres were the norm, not multiplexes (in the suburbs of the midwest, where I grew up, these were mostly twins in strip malls). You just don’t have memorable experiences in a Staples…you have them in public places where people are allowed to interact. Yeah, like movie theatres – even the crappy ones. So, the Allston does still hold a certain little place in my heart.

tinydr on May 22, 2006 at 5:25 pm

Heh, hey Clinton, you probably don’t remember me, we didn’t overlap very much…

I’m pretty sure the last film I saw @ the Allston was some terrible B scifi flick with
then Coolidge staffer/later Projectionist JFR and the younger brother of former Coolidge
staffer Jen D. on comps called in by ye olde Coolidge in October of 1993.
Ironically that was before I moved to Allston… by then they only seemed to be
half-open and I couldn’t be convinced to go to that theater, even with comps…

Still, I’m sad to hear it closed.

Ron Newman
Ron Newman on May 23, 2006 at 1:04 am

I saw Spike Lee’s Do The Right Thing here during its first run. It played on both screens, an arrangement I don’t recall seeing for any other film here.

rgladstein on February 13, 2007 at 8:29 pm

I was the manager of the Allston for an almost interminable period: 1987 to ‘99. If I remember correctly, Cinema 1had 208 seats and Cinema 2 had 179.

It was really sad the way Showcase ignored the place. We were jokingly referred to as Circle Cinema screens 8 and 9 by the company’s other local managers. If we were ever busy, I believe it was due to an error. We opened Robocop and Do the Right Thing probably because the company didn’t realize they’d be as big as they were. And yes, we ran both of those films on both screens, running a single print through the projectors on “interlock”.

When I took over as managing director of Allston after working as assistant manager my first year with the company, I wrote a memo to the district and corporateoffices suggesting they let me experiment with programming one of the screens. Allston has a lot of students and immigrants, and I have an MS in the history of world cinema, so I thought I could make the place more a part of the community. No one replied to the memo, and we kept running the Circle’s leftovers.

David Wodeyla
David Wodeyla on February 14, 2007 at 12:14 am

Hello again, Bob. You were at the Allston about the same time as I was at Chestnut Hill. I thought of the Allston as a place they gave films an extra few weeks after the Circle. It could have been a great neighborhood spot, I wonder why they didn’t try it.

MPol on July 17, 2011 at 3:03 pm

I remember that cute little theatre. Too bad it had to go. I lived in Brookline’s Coolidge Corner area on my last year of college, and I was within walking distance of this theatre. I saw a number of movies in that theater, including my all time favorite film, West Side Story. I, too, miss it, especially since it’s one less movie theatre to go to.

nilesouthern on July 19, 2012 at 11:13 am

Does anyone from the ‘old days’ of Allston remember a film called End of the Road (1970)—it may have played as a cult film—as it did in NYC during mid-late ‘70s. The film is coming out for first time on DVD… I’m writing about it’s history at art-house cinemas…. Many thanks!

rivest266 on May 11, 2013 at 11:50 am

This opened on March 15th, 1973 as Allston C1nema – C2nema.

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