Boston's best: Offbeat movie houses
From Cambridge-area art houses and Chinatown movie palaces to X-rated theaters in the Combat Zone, Greater Boston has had its share of cinemas. Major chains like Regal and Loews AMC now dominate the theatrical landscape, but head to these independent movie houses for unusual but usually excellent films.
Only a few minutes on the 77 bus from Harvard Square is the scrappy, second-run Capitol Theater. An Art Deco mural and gold-painted columns point to its past life as a luxurious movie palace back in the 1920s and '30s; but these days the Capitol is more of a cheap date, early-bird-special kind of establishment. The space's six screens are now stocked with a variety of second-run films, including kids' movies. With $5 weekday matinees, baby-friendly Mondays and opera screening events, the audience net is cast wide. You'll find the standard assortment of popcorn and snacks, plus ice cream at the attached Capitol Creamery. And thanks to its suburban locale, no ticket is over $7. 204 Massachusetts Ave, Arlington (781-648-4340, somervilletheatreonline.com/capitol-theatre)
Harvard Film Archive
Home to the largest collection of 35mm films in New England, Harvard's film temple and screening space provides access to a hard-to-find and diverse catalog of films. The selection in a given month might include anything from Hong Kong cinema to historically important Hollywood gems to pure experimental stuff. The HFA also hosts retrospectives, with filmmakers frequently brought in for Q&As. The poured cement exterior of the Carpenter Center might not be much to look at, but it’s the only Le Corbusier building in North America. Tickets are $9, or $12 for special events. Weekly screenings for Harvard students are free and open to the public, and the HFA’s monthly catalogue is a free film education in and of itself. Alas, there are no snacks allowed. 24 Quincy St, Cambridge (617-495-4700, hcl.harvard.edu/hfa)
Built in the 19th century, right in the middle of Harvard Square, the Brattle looks more like a barn than a movie theatre. A non-profit that’s dangled close to the edge of bankruptcy several times, the historic single-screen carries on, marching to the beat of its own eclectic programming. The decor isn’t fancy, but the schedule generally has something worth seeing, from Twin Peaks episodes to yearly Valentine’s Day screenings of Casablanca. With classic films, cartoon marathons, new documentaries, rare Japanese horror, best-of-the-year recaps and staff picks all on the roster, it’s good for open minds and omnivorous tastes. More easygoing than the nearby HFA, the Brattle serves beer and also hosts book events and live music on occasion. Showtimes can be a little erratic, so it’s best to double-check the website. 40 Brattle St, Harvard Square, Cambridge (617-876-6838, brattlefilm.org)