Off The Wall Cinema

15 Pearl Street,
Cambridge, MA 02139

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Off the Wall Cinema

Viewing: Photo | Street View

The Off The Wall Cinema described itself as a “Coffeehouse of the Arts”, but film is the art that they put most of their energy into. The more obscure the film, the better. On any given day you might see silents, short subjects, rock concert films, documentaries, or animation. Their annual “Magic Movies” animation festival was especially popular.

The atmosphere was relaxed, like being in someone’s living room with a hundred or so friends. Instead of popcorn and candy, they served coffee and excellent baked goods. Sometimes an art exhibit hung on the walls.

Off The Wall opened in 1974 at 861 Main Street in Cambridge’s Central Square. In 1979, they tried moving to a theatre across the river in Boston’s Faneuil Hall Marketplace, but the audience didn’t follow them. In September 1980, they returned to a new Central Square location at 15 Pearl Street, which had formerly housed the left-wing 100 Flowers Bookstore.

Off The Wall closed as a venue in August, 1986, although they continued to occasionally present programs in other venues for a couple more years. 15 Pearl Street became a senior citizen center, which it remains today.

Contributed by Ron Newman

Recent comments (view all 104 comments)

rausifer
rausifer on February 10, 2016 at 4:45 pm

You’re welcome! I’m glad you enjoyed it, and I’m sorry I didn’t post it sooner. Did you work there? If so, God bless you. I absolutely loved that place and it was a privilege to meet Michael and David who were so friendly and helpful. -Rick

MaxAndDave
MaxAndDave on February 10, 2016 at 5:20 pm

I did work there. I was usually behind the counter doling out cheesecake and congo bars, running the projector or cleaning up between shows. Sometimes all three! I still have my lifetime membership, of course. Hope you have yours!

rausifer
rausifer on February 13, 2016 at 10:50 pm

Sadly, I don’t. When it reopens I will have to negotiate with Michael. :)

SteveBurstein
SteveBurstein on September 2, 2016 at 1:41 am

I performed at Off the Wall, during “Comedy Clubhouse at Off the Wall” hosted by Ron Lynch, with local theatre legend Dorothy Dwyer and Burlesque Queen Cyndi Freeman.

MaxAndDave
MaxAndDave on September 2, 2016 at 4:46 am

Steve Burstein. Hmmm. Didn’t you once do a routine about the Three Stooges performing Shakespeare?

DaleTheSmall
DaleTheSmall on September 4, 2016 at 11:09 pm

Steve Burstein! Wow, I was just thinking about you last week…no joke! How’s by you, Groucho??

michaelnicholson
michaelnicholson on March 2, 2017 at 1:51 am

Off th Wall is in the news again, at least in the Boston Globe. First, Names and Faces quoted Casey Affleck as saying that the first movie he saw (at age 6) was at the “dearly departed” OTW. Unfortunately, “The Harder They Come” played at the Orson Welles, not OTW. I sent the Globe an e-mail saying that perhaps he and Ben and Matt went to the Alternative Family Cinema. Mark Shanahan obviously read that Casey interview because today, in a front page story on the Affleck brothers he said that they grew up watching films at OTW. Did they? Most likely, but at least we can boast of actual Oscar winning Patrons! michaelnicholson

jonathan_o
jonathan_o on April 7, 2017 at 9:16 pm

Thrilled to find Off the Wall here!!! Hands down my favorite venue, ever – a truly magical place. I moved to Boston in the early ‘70s and found it right away; I came for the Looney Tunes, stayed for the NFBC and experimental animation and so much more. Still have my lifetime membership card and programs from every show I went to (valuable for looking up titles from 40 years ago).

Endless thanks to Michael and his partners and to everyone who brought the magic to Boston. There’ll never be another place like it.

PS: Trivia – the Pearl Street location that had previously housed 100 Flowers Bookstore – that store was a coop where you swapped work for discounts on books. Wordsworth pretty much killed that model. It was co-owned by one of sf author Anne McCaffrey’s sons.

MaxAndDave
MaxAndDave on April 8, 2017 at 2:36 am

jonathan_o, thanks for the memories! You’re probably right when you say there‚Äôll never be another place like it, but hold onto your Lifetime Membership, just in case! :–)

jonathan_o
jonathan_o on April 10, 2017 at 8:21 pm

MaxandDave, you know I will! ;–) One other thing I want to say is that the programs prove OTW was every bit as great as we remember it was, if not even greater. I’m looking at “Jazz Women” and “Hot Jazz” (printed on two sides of the same sheet, but IIRC they were separate shows), and this was truly amazing stuff. There was obviously a lot of love involved in planning and bringing together all these short films, not to mention typing up the extensive notes, including full instrument credits for each film. So again, thanks from the bottom of my heart to everyone who did all the hard work.

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