Boston's best: Offbeat movie houses
Stuart Street Playhouse
Sometimes, a person just wants to go to the movies, without excess hassle. If you're craving the experience of sitting in a darkened theatre for a couple of hours but don’t know what to see, Stuart Street Playhouse can streamline the selection process. In 2009, this former live theater venue reinvented itself as a tiny, plush-seated movie house inside the Radisson Hotel in downtown Boston. With spartan, single-screen programming of lower-profile independent films, it’s the polar opposite of the insane, 19-screen movie theme park that is Loews Boston Common nearby—and tickets area a dollar fifty cheaper, to boot. Less can be more, unless you happen hate the only movie that they’re playing. 200 Stuart St, Theater District, Boston (617-426-4499, stuartstreetplayhouse.com)
The Paramount Center
Emerson College’s Paramount Center is an old classic that rose from the ashes in 2010, thanks to extensive renovations. The new ArtsEmerson initiative is kicking off its first season of film programming alongside theater, dance and concerts. The restored Art Deco building is dominated by the iconic flashing marquee, and still has the old Paramount Pictures logo carved into the facade. The complex now houses two theaters for performing arts and the Bright Family Screening Room, with 170 seats and both film and digital projection capabilities. The public film offerings are varied and appetizing, with unusual foreign films, animation, shorts, children’s programming and new avant-garde film all represented. It’s a far cry from the seedy selection of sex clubs and adult theaters that used to define the Washington Street area as Boston's “Combat Zone.” And if there aren’t going to be any strippers around, at least you can catch an Orson Welles flick sometime. 559 Washington Street, Theater District, Boston (617-824-8000, artsemerson.org)
The Ruth and Carl J. Shapiro Film Program at the Museum of Fine Arts (465 Huntington Avenue, Mission Hill, Boston, 617-267-9300, mfa.org/programs/film) shows new narrative and documentary films frequently and hosts festivals of national/ethnic cinema—from French to Greek to Jewish to Palestinian—as well as work from local filmmakers and director retrospectives. The Institute of Contemporary Art (100 Northern Ave, Waterfront, Boston, 617-478-3100, icaboston.org/programs/film) offers contemporary film and video art as well as special screening and festival events. In December, they're hosting collections of the year's best British and American TV commercials. The Kendall Square Cinema (1 Kendall Sq, Cambridge, 617-499-1996, landmarktheatres.com) is a good place to see first-run independent films and blockbusters alike, but purists wouldn’t call it an independent flickhouse; it’s owned by Landmark Theatres, who wrangle 54 cinemas nationwide.