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Mondays At The Movies: Coolidge Corner Theatre

There’s new hope for the future of cinema as movie theatres reopen. This summer, movie theatres are beginning to reopen at full capacity while taking essential safety precautions. After a year of screening films from the comfort of my basement couch in my Massachusetts home, it means everything to make the heroic return to a movie theatre near me.

When I made the jump to see films in person again, I had to make it worthwhile. Where could I get the ultimate classic movie-going experience?

A lightbulb suddenly went off in my head. I loved visiting one adorable little movie theatre in the Brookline neighborhood of Boston during my time at Emerson College: the Coolidge Corner Theatre. It’s one of the coolest and original Boston movie theatres and only about 20 minutes away from my hometown.

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With my dad and sister tagging along, we made the trip to Coolidge Corner, hoping that it would bring back all the irreplaceable memories. We were not disappointed.

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So, where is Coolidge Corner Theatre located?

Coolidge Corner Theatre is located in the Coolidge Corner neighborhood of Brookline, MA. The area is home to coffee shops, independent bookstores, restaurants, and unique boutiques.

Coolidge Corner is accessible by train, bus, or car. To get to the theatre by train, start in Downtown Boston and take the Green line (C train to Cleveland Circle) to Coolidge Corner. To get there by bus, take #66 Dudley Harvard Square car. Car routes are included on their website. Once you arrive at Coolidge Corner, almost every shop, including the movie theatre, is within walking distance.

Coolidge Corner Theatre history

Initially built as a church in 1906, the Coolidge Corner Theatre was eventually redesigned into an Art Deco movie place in 1933. Audiences flocked to the cinema to see the classic films of the Hollywood Ages that included big names like Charlie Chaplin, James Dean, Shirley Temple, Katherine Hepburn, and Marilyn Monroe.

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When the theatre began to struggle financially in the 1970s, film buff Justin Freed took over the Coolidge, transforming it into an arthouse cinema. Coolidge Corner Theatre would play classic revivals, foreign films, and independent movies from that point on. On the brink of closure again in 1988, film professor David Kleiler led a grassroots-campaign-turned-nonprofit-organization, The Coolidge Corner Theatre Foundation, which helped save the cinema.

After several transitions, artist Joe Zina earned the title of Executive Director in 1999. In his time there, he worked with Board Chair Mike Mayo to update Coolidge Corner Theatre with a steadier roof, new flooring, a concession stand, and cool lighting. They also made sure to revamp the inside and outside of the theatre with art deco details from its past.

Currently, Katherine Tallman serves as the Executive Director and CEO of the theatre, while Mark E. Anastasio is the Program Manager and Director of Special Programming. The cinema is now home to four operating screening rooms with a capacity of 700 people.

Although Coolidge Corner Theatre has adapted to the changing times, its mission to “entertain, inform,  and engage” stays the same while continuing to build “a vital community through film culture.” The theatre thrives today as New England’s most successful, independent non-profit cinema.

For more information on Coolidge Corner Theatre’s history, check out author Susan Quinn’s booklet Only at the Coolidge: The Story of a Remarkable Movie Theatre and the Coolidge Corner Theatre website.

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Coolidge Corner Theatre during COVID

When the pandemic hit in 2020, movie theatres had to close their doors. After the Coolidge Corner Theatre temporarily closed on March 13, 2020, they introduced virtual screenings. With these virtual screenings, patrons would purchase a new release that the cinema offered, and a portion of the ticket would support the Coolidge.

On May 13, 2021, the Coolidge Corner Theatre reopened at a 15% capacity and eventually allowed full capacity on June 10, 2021. The virtual screening room has now been closed down due to its focus on in-person screenings.

Coolidge Corner Theatre offers endless special programs

Coolidge Corner Theatre has almost 20 different signature programs. If you’re looking for a movie from Hollywood’s Golden Age, the movie theatre screens classics from the silent era to modern cult hits on 35mm projections. This summer, Coolidge is offering several classics like Alfred Hitchcock’s The Birds, the sports dramedy A League of Their Own, or the eye-opening documentary Paris is Burning.

For parents with infants, Coolidge has a program called “Box Office Babies.” Parents and their babies can watch movies from the comfort of a baby-friendly zone with room to walk, stroller parking, and Koala changing tables. For toddlers, the theatre screens kid shows where smaller children can sit on booster seats.

Coolidge Corner Theatre shares its love of the performance arts with “Cinema Jukebox,” “Dance at the Cinema,” “Opera at the Cinema,” and “Stage and Screen.” The cinema screens concerts, popular movie musicals, opera productions, performances from various dance companies, and collaborations with Huntington Theatre Company. With their program “OnStage at the Coolidge,” the theatre offers live performances from musical artists. In “NT Live,” British theatre is brought to the movies with screenings of live productions.

With a deep love of foreign films, Coolidge has a program called “Goethe German Film,” which screens new movies from Germany from up-and-coming directors. In August, Coolidge is set to share thrilling epics from the Samurai genre with movies like Shotgun Assassin and Seven Samurai.

The theatre will have an “After Midnight” spectacular filled with late-night programming of the craziest, scariest, and campiest horror films for horror buffs. If audiences are not into getting a late-night fright, they can check out “Science on Screen,” where notable people in the science world lead a discussion followed by a documentary, cult film, or biopic. With the theatre’s “Off the Couch” series, members of the Boston Psychoanalytic Society & Institute host screenings of current films focusing on psychological aspects.

The Coolidge takes a journey to the past with their “The Sounds of Silents” series. In this program, silent films are accompanied by live accompanists or orchestras. For people who like a blast from the past with a little more dialogue, Coolidge has a “Rewind” program where they screen iconic VHS hits. Following the film, patrons can head to the Osaka Japanese Sushi & Steak House across the street for music, drinks, and sushi.

The Coolidge also offers classes to those interested in the power of film. The cinema has two different classes: three-hour classes that meet once a week for four to six weeks or a one-night seminar. Lesson plans include learning about Alfred Hitchcock and the Italian Neorealism movement.

Coolidge Corner Theatre new movie premieres

The Coolidge has unleashed its red carpet in the past for new movie premieres. In 2015, both the Spotlight and Black Mass casts walked the Brookline red carpet before heading in to screen the latest films. In September of 2015, Johnny Depp, Dakota Johnson, and other cast members from Black Mass dropped by the Coolidge for the premiere.

In October of that same year, Mark Ruffalo and the Boston Globe Spotlight team walked the red carpet for their new movie, Spotlight.

If you head out to the Coolidge Corner Theatre, you may get the chance to have a taste of Hollywood in the depths of Brookline.

The Coolidge Corner Theatre Award

Move over Academy Awards! The cinema presents its own award called The Coolidge Award. Created in 2008 through a donation from the family of board member Rikk Larsen, their website states that the award honors a film artist “whose work is consistently original and challenging.”

Zhang Yimou, Meryl Streep, Julianne Moore, Thelma Schoonmaker, Jonathan Demme, and Werner Herzog have won the award in the past.

Coolidge Corner Theatre movie showtimes 

When I visited Coolidge Corner Theatre, there was a variety of films to choose from. The theatre was screening new hit movies like In the Heights, Werewolves Within, Zola, documentaries like Roadrunner: A Film About Anthony Bourdain and Summer of Soul, and the Alfred Hitchcock thriller Strangers on a Train. Most of their films start screening in the early evening until about midnight.

Check out their movie showtimes to buy movie tickets either online or in person.

My experience at Coolidge Corner Theatre

My dad, sister, and I made plans to catch a 7 p.m. showing of the black and white movie Strangers on a Train. I thought it was the perfect opportunity to catch a classic Alfred Hitchcock film in a retro theatre like the Coolidge.

It’s hard to miss the Coolidge Corner Theatre with all the old-fashion art decor and embellished lights. The view at night is even more spectacular as the lights on the decor beam bright towards the street. I thought I was zapped into a 1950s date night at the movies.

We walked to the side of the Coolidge building, stopping by the box office booth to purchase our tickets. It really does feel like you’ve been blasted into the past with glass separating customers from employees. Patrons have to wait outside until doors open a half-hour before showtime. Luckily, we had gotten there fifteen minutes before showtime, so we could just head in.

Stepping into the Coolidge Corner Theatre, it was like cinemas had never closed. Lines of people wrapped around the tiny lobby and stairs as people waited to buy snacks and enter their screening room. As a safety precaution, masks were required inside, but you were allowed to take them off once you sat in your seat.

While we opted out for a movie snack, the snack bar smelled of fresh popcorn while candy lined around its glass edges. If we hadn’t gone out to eat a half hour before, I would’ve gotten my hands on buttered movie theater popcorn and a large soda.

When we finally made our way into the screening room, my eyes darted aro