Boston's best: Offbeat movie houses
MIT Lecture Series Committee
It’s not technically a theatre, but MIT's Lecture Series Committee has been programming movies on MIT's campus since the 1950s. The weekly screenings are a mix of recent blockbusters and classic films, plus the occasional special event like a film from a visiting director or an all-night sci-fi marathon—all projected on 35mm. With its small wooden auditorium seats and dollar popcorn, the LSC provides a relaxed, sociable atmosphere and an offbeat viewing experience well worth the dirt-cheap $4 ticket. It’s one of the first movie venues to put its schedules online (in 1996), and it's the only place in the area where Björk has been spotted at the movies. Various lecture halls on MIT campus, see website for details (lsc.mit.edu) .
Steps away from the Davis Square T station, the Somerville Theatre opened in 1914 as a vaudeville and movie venue, transitioning into the picture business full-time during the Great Depression. The Somerville’s tradition of attracting audiences by giving away prizes like turkeys and appliances ended in the 1970s, but a crowd-pleasing, multi-purpose spirit is still intact. As well as showing new, one-off and second-run movies, the theater is also a concert venue for major acts and the hospitable home of the Independent Film Festival Boston every spring. Four smaller screens were added in 1996, but the original colorful, gold-and-plaster main theater remains in good shape. Beer and wine are sold for all shows, and like its sister theater, the Capitol, the Somerville’s ticket prices slightly undercut competitors: $8 for evening shows, $5 for weekday matinees and $6 before 6pm on weekends. 55 Davis Sq, Somerville (617-625-5700, somervilletheatreonline.com)
Coolidge Corner Theatre
The distinctive neon marquee of the Coolidge Corner Theatre towers over Brookline like a beacon. The Art Deco non-profit is working all the angles by juggling tons of series in addition to their regular independent and foreign programming. Science on Screen pairs a movie with a related science talk, After Midnite does cult films and horror, and the Coolidge Shorts program plays short films alongside feature presentations. The annual Coolidge Award has honored the likes of Meryl Streep and Jonathan Demme, and attracted many a big name into town. Like the Somerville and Capitol Theatres, Coolidge has added more screens to compete with multiplexes—in addition to their main 1930s theater, there are three smaller screens. But be warned: one is very small. 290 Harvard St, Brookline (617-734-2500, coolidge.org)