Boston’s no Los Angeles (Welcome back, Comm. Ave. wind tunnels of winter), but if the city has one thing going for it film-wise, it’s the landmark small and independent movie theatres. Don’t get me wrong, I enjoy the 3,000-calorie-year’s-worth-of-sodium snack that is chain theatre popcorn, but it doesn’t beat the real butter on most of these theatre’s concessions. Also, they’re usually…wait for it, my penniless college friends…cheaper!
1. First, there’s this little place I’m kind of obsessed with called the Coolidge Corner Theatre. If you haven’t visited the Brookline neighborhood, you should probably drop whatever important flashcards you’re making and hightail it over there this instant. Surrounded by great restaurants and shops, the art deco theater has been a landmark in Coolidge Corner since 1933 and today runs over 15 different special programs. I’ll try not to ramble on about too many, but the Coolidge’s programming is awesomely diverse because of the broad audience they cater to. Perhaps most popular among college students is the @fter midnite series. The program has evolved over the years to include cult classics (think Eraserhead and The Room), re-mastered sing-alongs, “Living Flesh” live burlesque shows and even a “Hey Ladies” series showing films such as Flashdance and Clueless. AND the programming director happily listens to feedback and suggestions via their Facebook page. The soon-to-go-national “Science on Screen” series is also worth checking out. The program pairs unexpected movies not typically considered scientific with a lecture from a prominent researcher. For example, the classic horror flick, Night of the Living Dead, was paired in 2009 with a lecture from psychiatrist Steven C. Schlozman on the theoretical neuroscience behind the zombie brain. Enough said.
The Coolidge is located at 290 Harvard Street, just a short walk past BU’s West Campus or just take the C train (Green Line) to Coolidge Corner.
2. Switching over to the Red Line, the Kendall Square Cinema near MIT focuses on showing multiple indie, avant-garde and foreign films at the same time. Though it serves more typical theater concessions and charges slightly higher prices, the modern architecture and large size of the theater allow for the constant rotation of more under-the-radar films. While the Coolidge only has two larger screening rooms, the Kendall has nine. The Kendall is an especially appealing option for those BU students interested in international films that are rarely, if ever, screened by national chain theaters. Currently playing alongside numerous Sundance winners and indie dramas is the The Skin I Live In, the newest horror flick from famed Spanish director Pedro Almodóvar.
The Kendall Square Cinema is just one somewhat-confusing walk away from the Kendall/Massachusetts Institute of Technology T stop at 1 Kendall Square in Cambridge.
3. Harvard Square’s Brattle Theatre shows unique art-house and independent films, but is also very connected with the intellectual community of Harvard University and its 19th century roots. Today run by the nonprofit Brattle Film Foundation, the house has operated as a cultural institution since 1890 and poet Henry Wadsworth Longfellow’s brother even played a role in the Brattle’s beginnings as one of the co-founders. The Brattle is even smaller than the Coolidge with only one screen inside the red brick, barn-style building. Yet the theater still hosts premieres, special series and live events like Q & A’s with best-selling authors in conjunction with the Harvard Book Store. Recent visiting authors include the star of television’s The Office Mindy Kailing and Pulitzer Prize winner Tracy Kidder. Programming also focuses on re-screening the classics in keeping with the theater’s emphasis on the past and the Golden Age of Hollywood. Take, for example, their annual Valentine’s Day screening of Casablanca. I swoon.
The Brattle is located at 40 Brattle Street, right by the Harvard Square stop on the Red Line.
4. In the shadow of intellectual Cambridge is the more lighthearted Somerville Theater in Davis Square. Popular among Tufts students and worth the longer trek for those at BU, the Somerville Theater competes with multiplexes for box-office sales by offering unbeatable prices that are especially attractive to those on a college budget. The Somerville screens first-run films also playing at the big name theatres, but charges a mere five dollars for all matinee screenings, almost half the price of a ticket at Regal Fenway. Perhaps most unique to the Somerville Theater is the branch of Boston’s Museum of Bad Art housed in the basement. While waiting in line for the bathroom, you can enjoy works that range from childish to creepy, all celebrating individual creativity in unorthodox ways. Oh, did I mention that the concession stand serves Richardson’s ice cream (also at Rhett’s in the GSU)? Let me just emphasize: you can watch a movie in a comfy seat while eating purple cow frozen yogurt. Take that image in. Revel in it.
Just one T stop past Harvard Square, the Somerville Theatre is located at 55 Davis Square.
So…winter to-do list additions?