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 88 comments)

thedragonb on August 28, 2014 at 7:03 pm

Aaah, I remember Off The Wall cinema on Main Street, Cambridge as a child. I attended one of their animation afternoons one weekend where they showed cartoons and such. :) Very cool time. Grounds roots venue! :) Mad hippyish vibe! Between this Central Sq. Cinema and The Orson Welles, Cambridge had it going on back in the day! :)

MaxAndDave on August 29, 2014 at 12:21 am

Very cool, thedragonb! What year(s) would that have been? Do you remember any particular shows?

michaelnicholson on December 9, 2014 at 12:28 pm

Hard to believe, but this Saturday, December 13, is the 40th anniversary of our opening opening night. International Animation if I remember correctly. The following morning saw the first of our Alternative Family Cinema shows. michaelnicholson

thestarofmyworld on June 23, 2015 at 11:49 pm

I have many fond memories of this erstwhile theater. The animation viewings were an integral part of my childhood and interest in film, theater, and writing; and I always enjoyed the cafe ambiance about it.

MaxAndDave on June 24, 2015 at 1:13 am

Hey thestarofmyworld, that’s very cool! Do you remember any particular animations or experiences you had there?

thestarofmyworld on June 28, 2015 at 10:48 pm

Yes, I remember Saturday viewings of betty boop. I was about seven, I believe. my mother took more than once.

michaelnicholson on July 13, 2015 at 7:58 pm

I’m sorry to say that animator Jane Aaron died on June 27. The cause was cancer. She was 67. Jane’s film “Remains of the Day” was in the last “Magic Movies” show at OTW. Like Karen Aqua, Jane worked for Sesame Street, completing almost 200 shorts: the letter X, numbers 1-20, and many Elmo’s World segments. michaelnicholson

michaelnicholson on July 30, 2015 at 2:08 pm

George Coe passed away on July 18. He was 86. George will always be remembered as the producer, director and star of one of OTW’s favorite films, “De Duva (The Dove), an Oscar nominated short in 1968. Quoting lines of dialogue became a favorite passtime among OTW staff and patrons. The film was also notable for the film debut of Madeline Kahn ("Phallican symbol?).

mae10 on July 30, 2015 at 4:11 pm

Not quite the same as watching it at OTW, but De Duva — one of our all-time favorites for sure — is available here:

MaxAndDave on July 31, 2015 at 12:00 am

A true classic. RIP George Coe.

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