Best movie theaters in Boston
There is no denying the significance and beauty of this Art Deco cinema, an architectural jewel of Brookline. The Coolidge has some of the best screenings and movie-related programming in the city; daily offerings include first run films, both mainstream and art- house. Classics, independent films, documentaries, foreign films, and animated features are also shown. The Coolidge regularly runs retrospectives and festivals, often with filmmakers in tow to talk about their work. There are screenings from London’s National Theatre and also from European opera houses. Perhaps the most beloved event is the midnight screenings of cult films.
This Kendall Square favorite has a reputation for showing the best in new indie films right alongside more mainstream first-run movies: Call it the thinking movie-goer’s cinema. There are regular special screenings with filmmakers in attendance for Q&A’s. It also screens live special events, such as performances from England’s National Theatre, Royal Opera House, Royal Shakespeare Company, and the Globe Theatre.
This massive megaplex by the Common includes 19 screens, mostly showing first run movies. Occasionally, it will include a classic movie enjoying a significant anniversary, and it hosts the odd premiere complete with stars and red carpet. Otherwise, patrons enjoy the MacGuffin Bar for drinks, and there are ample snacks and concessions. The technology is top-notch and includes IMAX and RealD 3D.
Built in 1914, this Davis Square mainstay has five screening rooms, including the grand gilded, balconied vintage theatre, which holds up to 900 and also has a micro-cinema with 31 seats. Three of the rooms have been modernized, and latter-day additions include the convivial foyer bar, which serves craft beers and wine. The theater has excellent sound and visuals, and accommodates both modern and vintage screen formats, even 70 mm film. Along with some very cool themed events and festivals, the cinema mixes art house, first and second run features, and regularly screens silent films with live musical accompaniment.
The lobby to this cinema in the Fresh Pond Mall in North Cambridge is deceiving. Unlike the auditoriums of this locally-owned mini-chain, it is a bit grim and a little tatty, and with popcorn often strewn about. But inside the overhauled modernized screening rooms are giant comfy recliner seats with lots of legroom. Another plus for this cinema is plentiful free parking right in front. As Fresh Pond Apple screens new releases and first-run films, with a keen tilt to the blockbusters, it is incredibly busy on weekends, and often overrun with kids. However, later evening screenings mean you often have the place to yourself.
Possibly Boston’s poshest cinema and certainly its most detail- and comfort-oriented, the ShowPlace ICON has 10 auditoriums, varying from the 131-seat ICON-X large format room to a cozier 63-seat black box type. A large full service bar and lounge dominates the lobby, with floor-to-ceiling windows overlooking the Seaport. Grab a comfy bar seat or cozy banquette; food is available before, during, and after shows, and the lounge offers small plates specially created to take into the theatre—just to annoy true cinephiles. More important, there’s large recliner seating and the tech side is unsurpassable, complete with RealD 3D capability. The cinema has a reserved seating-only policy, and evening films are 18-plus. Infants (age two and under) are discouraged and are charged full adult price.
Built in 1925, The Capitol Theatre saw the end of the silent film era and the beginning of talkies in quick succession. The sister to the Somerville Theatre is also family owned and was lovingly restored to keep both the original Art Deco features and bring audio and visual standards up to high tech scratch. The Capitol has six auditoriums showing art house and first run films, and is very popular with local families at weekends. Mondays at noon, the cinema has baby-friendly movie time to allow parents and caregivers to view without any stigma should a baby cry and such. The theatre is adjacent to The Capitol Creamery, a standalone ice cream parlor serving locally made Richardson's ice cream—you can take your cone into the theater, too.
This beloved Harvard Square boîte has just a single screen and a 225-seat capacity. Though the building dates to the 19th century, movies have only been shown at the Brattle Theatre since 1953. (The nonprofit Brattle Film Foundation has operated the theatre since 2001.) Film lovers can expect to see art-house classics, cult favorites, and new independent and documentary films on 35mm, DCP, and 16mm. Expect filmmaker appearances and special film events. The Brattle also hosts or co-hosts many film festivals each year. Beer and wine is dispensed from the lobby café alongside standard food.
The Regent Theatre dates back to 1916 when it was a hotspot on the vaudeville circuit. A decade later it had been renovated and was regularly showing movies. The 500-seat single screen theater is now a community art center and performance venue with regular film screenings. Usually, you’ll find arts documentaries shown, mostly on the lives and musings of musicians, and often in conjunction with a live music performance. (Film biographies on Janis Joplin, Joan Jett, and even Johnny Rotten have graced the screen.) The small town atmosphere contrasts with most cinema experiences, and you can take advantage of a dinner and movie discount at nearby restaurants.
For the most in-depth presentations of art-house cinema and cult films, head to the Harvard Film Archive in the Carpenter Center for the Visual Arts, situated in the heart of the Harvard University campus. Both a cinema and film archive, the educational approach is reflected by monthly or seasonal selections that take a long look at some of the world’s most renowned filmmakers. That might be a retrospective on a director such as Fritz Lang or Wim Wenders; or it might delve into a genre, such as westerns; or the work of a particular studio. Most often a series will be headed by a main screening with a filmmaker or artist in attendance to talk about their work. Usually, films are only screened Friday through Monday nights.
This longstanding multiplex in the growing Fenway neighborhood includes comfy wide seats and reserved recliner seating. It mostly features first run mainstream movies in its 13 theaters, just minutes from Fenway Park. (Expect crowds on weekends and for openings.) If you are a regular, join the Regal Club for free popcorn and movie tickets. Besides mainstream entertainment, Regal Fenway also regularly hosts vintage movies, courtesy of Turner Classic Movies. It also features live event screenings direct from New York’s Metropolitan Opera and from London’s National Theatre.
Newly built at the Assembly Row complex, this 12-theater AMC, like others in the national chain, shows first run movies, especially blockbusters, and offers them up with state of the art sound and visuals. The auditorium seats are comfy and the MacGuffins Bar serves beer and wine. There’s snack food on offer, such as flatbreads and hot dogs. With the plethora of places to eat and drink nearby, this cinema’s fast food and candy offerings are not the only choice for pleasure and sustenance, though.