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January 10th, 2007


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01:15 pm - Movie Theater Post-Mortems
Sad news for the Pioneer Valley: The non-profit Academy of Music in Northampton has stopped showing films due to a lack of funding for the most part. To help keep the theater afloat, the plans are to focus instead on live performances, much like the Calvin Theatre down the street. They laid off their manager of 35 years and all the part-time help. Of course this is being touted as a "temporary" measure, and I'd like to believe that very much. However, this does not look good for a municipally-owned non-profit theater that doesn't get the funding they need from the city.

The Academy of Music is a beautiful theater. Some of my most cherished theater memories involve the place. One of my First Real Dates as a teenager was going to see the 1925 silent Phantom of the Opera with live organ accompaniment. I think I was more enraptured with the theater and the film than I was with my date -- I mean, this was the silent version with the hand-colored masquerade ball sequence, for crying out loud!

Anyway.

In more local and immediate news, the Loews Assembly Square theater's days are numbered; Ron Newman has confirmed with the manager that the theater will close after regular operations on Monday, January 15. The theater, built in 1981 as part of the once-ubiquitous Sack chain, has apparently outlived its usefulness and will be demolished, most likely in the name of Big Box Retail.

Honestly the "Assy Square" theater was never my first choice of film venues, but I routinely found myself going when someone with a car was driving; both the Assembly Square and Fresh Pond theaters had free parking. (Fresh Pond, of course, was then nicknamed "Hey Free Parking", as in "Well, there's insulation hanging from the ceiling, the floors are stickier than flypaper, plus my armrest has been ripped in half and there's jagged pieces of plastic that could potentially embed themselves in my flesh if I'm not careful, but hey! Free parking!")

I'm thinking of going on Monday night if I can get a ride. Being MLK Day, the last Davis-bound Woeful 90 Bus will leave Wellington at 10:00 and show up at Assembly Square around 10:10; the films will get out later than that when you figure in pre-show trailers and commercials and any good-byes. And I'm not going to walk up to Sullivan Square just to wait an hour in the cold for the 89 or take the Orange Line into the city just to take the Red Line back home. That's just goofy.

Judging from the start times and running times, the last two films to play the Assembly Square Theater will be Black Christmas, a pretty crummy remake/sequel to one of the definitive proto-slasher films of the 70s, and A Night At The Museum, which looks like a fun Jumanji-in-NYC story and has received middlin' to mediocre reviews. Both will be getting out at roughly the same time.

Given the choice, I'd rather watch Jumanji In NYC than Teenagers Gettin' Killed In Horribly Ironic Christmas-Themed Ways. A Night At The Museum will start at 8:05 pm on Monday, January 15. If perchance Black Christmas runs slightly longer, I'm sure we could peek in on that auditorium to watch the last-ever frames of film hit the Assembly Square's screens -- I mean, what could they do? Tell us never to return?

I know there are those who won't shed a tear for the loss of the Assembly Square theater. It's run-down and not in the best of neighborhoods anymore, but still, a movie theater is a movie theater, regardless of its crappiness. And the closure of the Assembly Square will mean that Somerville will have only one movie theater left open. So I think it'd be nice to send the poor little multiplex (which once was a monster that killed off at least one nearby single-screen theater) a send-off. It's seen better days and won't exactly go out in a blaze of glory, but I think the place deserves to hear the sound of audience applause one last time.

(23 comments | Leave a comment)

Comments:


[User Picture]
From:muse0fire
Date:January 10th, 2007 06:57 pm (UTC)
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I'm very sorry to hear about the Academy of Music - I remember seeing Lawrence of Arabia there during high school, and it was just the perfect setting. (Plus, speaking of bad dates, it provided much needed conclusive proof that Eric, my boyfriend at the time, was actually a woeful loser, since the only part of the film that made him go "whoa" was a cool motorcycle.)

The last film I saw there was when I was up for Thanksgiving a year or so ago when my whole family went to see Good Night, and Good Luck, which was brilliant.

It's a shame they're suffering from a lack of funding.
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From:derspatchel
Date:January 10th, 2007 07:13 pm (UTC)
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I have so many fond memories of films at the Academy. Never got to see Lawrence of Arabia there, but honestly that's the only screen in the Valley that could do the film justice. (I have seen it at Boston's lovely art deco Coolidge Corner theater, which was just an amazing experience.)

Bad date turned good story: During my freshman year at UMass, I somehow got comp tix to see this band called Cracker, whoever they are, at Pearl Street. Thing is it's an 18+ show and college IDs ain't accepted as proof of age, so my date and I are humiliatingly turned away at the door (which probably explains why I was so loath to return to Pearl Street for many years.) So instead, we walked back to the downtown area and decided to catch a film at the Academy. Turned out to be Dazed & Confused. The range of films I've seen at that place is pretty cool.

The Academy of Music also showed Pulp Fiction, Chasing Amy and the Kids in the Hall film Brain Candy, for instance, when none of the AMC theaters in Hadley would (and the Pleasant Street was booked up with something else, presumably.)

Oddly enough, the Academy of Music is one of only three 80s and 90s-era theaters in the Valley (besides the Amherst Cinema and the Calvin) where I didn't see Rocky Horror at one point or another.
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From:ron_newman
Date:January 10th, 2007 07:20 pm (UTC)
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I saw Lawrence of Arabia at the Charles Cinema's huge screen in Boston. Sadly, that's gone. The other Big Event film I remember seeing there was Gettysburg. The place was once grand, but Sack really let it run down by the end.
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From:derspatchel
Date:January 10th, 2007 07:26 pm (UTC)
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I never got to see anything in glorious 70mm on the Charles' screen, and more's the pity.
[User Picture]
From:muse0fire
Date:January 10th, 2007 07:42 pm (UTC)
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Never got to see Lawrence of Arabia there, but honestly that's the only screen in the Valley that could do the film justice.

Oh, and it did. It spoiled me, and much as I love the film, I just can't bear to watch it on a little ol' television set after having had the chance to see it displayed in all its glory on a big screen.

which probably explains why I was so loath to return to Pearl Street for many years

Eighteen years of living in Amherst/NoHo and I don't think I EVER made it to Pearl Street. Meh.

the Academy of Music is one of only three 80s and 90s-era theaters in the Valley (besides the Amherst Cinema and the Calvin) where I didn't see Rocky Horror at one point or another.

We used to do the show at the Hampshire Mall for a long time, and then I remember switching to a theater in Hadley. For some reason I think we did actually do it once at Amherst Cinema, but that could be a false memory.

The Academy of Music would have been perfect!
[User Picture]
From:derspatchel
Date:January 10th, 2007 08:20 pm (UTC)
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We used to do the show at the Hampshire Mall for a long time, and then I remember switching to a theater in Hadley. For some reason I think we did actually do it once at Amherst Cinema, but that could be a false memory.

I remember seeing it first at the Hampshire Mall in the late 80s. The ads in the Gazette kept a running tally of the number of weeks it had been continuously playing; it was well into the 300s by the time the run ended.

After the Hampshire Mall gave it up, it resurfaced in 1991 at Tower Theater in South Hadley for several years, and that's where I saw the bulk of my screenings.

Once Tower gave up having to deal with us (I remember we nicknamed the manager "Grumpy Smurf" for having the audacity to cuss out one of our Eddies for blowing Everclear fireballs in the parking lot) the movie disappeared for several years. There was one screening in the Student Union Ballroom at UMass my freshman year and then nothing until I think 1995, when the Northampton Film Festival held a screening in the basement of the Pleasant Street Theater. Amazingly enough, a ton of the old crew showed up spontaneously and we had enough for a floor show. But the Pleasant Street basement is airplane fuselage-small and it was real cramped, though enjoyable. I think that was the last time I saw Nora, she of the infamous foodstuff-in-cleavage trick known as "Nora Do Good, Nora Get Cookie." (To absent friends!)

I think the Northampton Film Festival did the screening thing three times, twice at Pleasant Street and the final time at the Mountain Farms theater. And once again, the regulars from Tower all seemed to find their way back.

The management had no idea how to handle a Rocky Horror crowd, so suddenly me, Kris From Jersey and the two Mount Holyoke girls who frequently switched off between playing Rocky and Frank found ourselves as impromptu emcees, Virgin Patrollers, and otherwise In Charge. (lordfeepness? malconstant? Were you there, too?) Our shenanigans made the Gazette; I was quoted as hollering "Don't hit the screen! The screen costs more than you!" (Whereupon someone from the back piped up with "Honey, if I can hit the screen from back here, I'm doing a damn good job.")

That was it for the 90s, though. I soon moved east and caught one or two Harvard Square showings. The last one was in 2004 with a bunch of Theatre@Firsties, plumtreeblossom and I being the old-schoolers of the bunch and thoroughly chagrined at the 45-minute pre-show and the fact that we were one group of maybe three who were hollering any sort of callbacks at all. (On the other hand, since we were the only ones with callback lines, we were easily heard and thus freakin' hilarious.) All in all, however, it was one of those true "You Can't Go Home Again" moments and should have been accompanied by some Wonder Years-esque classical guitar.

Noah Smith recently mentioned they'd started Rocky Horror back at Tower; there's an established cast and everything. A far cry from the days where we'd often divvy up roles based on who came dressed as what.

The Academy of Music would've made a fine venue if not for the fact that a theater what hosts Rocky gets thoroughly trashed on a weekly basis, and often by people who do it just to fuck shit up (remember the guy who threw flour on the walls at Tower?) It'd be a true liability for a lovingly-restored theater.
[User Picture]
From:ron_newman
Date:January 10th, 2007 07:12 pm (UTC)
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I'd like to go see Night at the Museum there with you. But I was planning to take the #90 bus home.
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From:triplehdm
Date:January 10th, 2007 07:41 pm (UTC)
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Personally, i vengefully wave the bird at the Assembly Square theatre as it goes down the toilet. This is based entirely on the fact that a first-run midnight showing of Return of the King I went to there had projector problems and cut off just at the moment the lights faded after Frodo and Sam escape dthe volcano in which they destroyed the One Ring (by the way, if you haven't seen the movie yet, don't read that last sentence). The kind managers at Assy Square told us there was nothing they could do and had to be cajoled into giving out free passes to a theaterful of angry, ripped-off people at 3am on a weeknight.
On another note, a showing of AVP there went just fine, which i count as another mark against them.
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From:joyeous
Date:January 10th, 2007 08:06 pm (UTC)
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I was just about to say the same thing! The crowd almost rioted. They were out for blood, and honestly, I wouldn't have stopped them.

(BTW, Hi Dan, how are you?)
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From:triplehdm
Date:January 10th, 2007 08:32 pm (UTC)
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Wasn't that just the worst?! Thank goodness for your bootlegged Russian DVD or else it'd be another yead before seeing the ending! ;-)

I'm doing well! Currently living in Salem and making preparations for a ludicrously frightening move to LA.
You?
[User Picture]
From:joyeous
Date:January 10th, 2007 09:22 pm (UTC)
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That's great! I'm curious as to how you know derspatchel though.

BTW, if you want to take the conversation off of Rob's lj, I would be happy to add you to my f-list (I have filters for just this very reason). If not, that's cool too. Good luck with preparing to move. That's quite a journey.

BTW, recognize this userpic? LOL
[User Picture]
From:derspatchel
Date:January 10th, 2007 10:23 pm (UTC)
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I'm curious as to how you know derspatchel though.

Why, Theatre@First, of course! We were both in T@F's inaugural production of Rosencrantz & Guildenstern Are Dead.
[User Picture]
From:triplehdm
Date:January 11th, 2007 01:42 pm (UTC)
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Spatch Johnson is right!
We were both "the guys with funny beards" in that show, though I didn't have Rob's glorious curls. ;-)

I'd definitely like to tag on you list, in fact, i'll go add you now!
[User Picture]
From:derspatchel
Date:January 11th, 2007 07:18 pm (UTC)
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Spatch Johnson is right!

Razzem!!
[User Picture]
From:derspatchel
Date:January 10th, 2007 08:23 pm (UTC)
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I saw The Two Towers at Fresh Pond and there was a horrible scratch down several of the reels. The scratch was situated at just the right spot between characters during many of the journeying sequences, so it almost became a character itself -- Frodo, Sam, Aragorn, and Liney The Magic Line.
[User Picture]
From:ron_newman
Date:January 10th, 2007 08:28 pm (UTC)
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I haven't been back to Fresh Pond since Entertainment took it (back) over. Have they fixed it up at all?
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From:vanguardcdk
Date:January 10th, 2007 10:57 pm (UTC)
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Last time I was there they had fixed it up some, but not a huge amount. They also seem to have some staffing issues (both amount of staff and training).

But it should be noted that last time I went was several months ago...
From:(Anonymous)
Date:January 11th, 2007 03:59 pm (UTC)

movie theater closing

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Good riddance to that Somerville craphole; haven't been back there in seven years myself. I'm surprised it hung on this long. Only good thing I can say about it is that it was ridiculously easy to see "2-for-1" movies there.
[User Picture]
From:jimmystagger
Date:January 11th, 2007 08:21 pm (UTC)
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I saw the first movie I ever saw at that movie theatre. "Empire Strikes Back" way back in the day. Sad to hear about it going.
[User Picture]
From:ron_newman
Date:January 11th, 2007 08:54 pm (UTC)
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A couple years ago, I created a CinemaTreasures page about Assembly Square. It hasn't attracted very many comments yet. (Compare to the Somerville Theatre page or the Loews Copley Place Cinema page)
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From:cjfringe
Date:January 16th, 2007 04:02 am (UTC)
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I'll miss the Assy Square theater, even though I haven't been there in seven years. The manager used to be really nice and gave us free passes to The Matrix back in the day.
[User Picture]
From:ron_newman
Date:January 16th, 2007 01:49 pm (UTC)

went there last night

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So, I went to Assembly Square last night and watched Night at the Museum with about 25 other patrons. I think this was one of the theatre's larger screens, with about 25 rows of 13 seats each. No stadium seating, of course, but reasonably comfortable.

Judy, the manager, wore a Sack Theatres badge for her last day on the job. She had worked there since 1983. She said the theatre was closing because its 25-year lease expires at the end of this month. (Though it actually opened in June 1981, which is a bit more than 25 years ago.) They have to remove everything from the building by January 31. She does not know when it will be demolished or what will replace it.

Some of the staff will soon start new jobs at the Somerville Theatre in Davis Square, but Judy doesn't know if she'll be one of these.

They showed a minimum of previews, so the show let out well before 10 pm, with plenty of time to catch the last #90 bus home. One or two other movies were still finishing up. As I left, some employees began taking down the red marquee letters for the last time, throwing them into a bin and letting anyone who wanted take one. I should have grabbed one, but I didn't. There may still be some left over today.

Today's Globe still has an ad for the Assembly Square Cinema, so someone at AMC or the newspaper wasn't paying close attention. But if you call 617-628-7000, the recording informs you that "at this time, our Somerville location has been closed for business permanently."
[User Picture]
From:ron_newman
Date:August 21st, 2014 03:27 pm (UTC)

They're finally tearing it down!

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I got a call Monday afternoon from Billy Tauro of The Somerville News Weekly, informing me that the bulldozers had finally arrived for the old Assembly Square cinema building. He took a bunch of photos and wanted my permission to include what I wrote about it for CinemaTreasures many years ago. I said fine, as long as you credit both CinemaTreasures and me for that text.

The demolition photos are also in the print edition of the paper, available at various locations around Somerville, including a newsbox in front of Mike's in Davis Square.

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