Natalie Daniels

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.

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.

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.

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.

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 around the space as red-painted walls, yellow curtains, and historical patterns and designs framed the area. Hundreds of red chairs were laid out in front of me as a red curtain covered the movie screen. The seats dipped low, but every section was perfectly crafted so you could see the film.

Before the film started, Director of Special Programming Mark E. Anastasio gave us a warm welcome and shared all the upcoming films at the Coolidge. Then, the lights went dark, and the red curtain opened. It was time to sit, relax, and enjoy the movie.

You can never go wrong with an Alfred Hitchcock film at Coolidge Corner Theatre

This was the first time I had ever seen Strangers on a Train, so I went in with no expectations. In the 1951 film, tennis star Guy Haines (Farley Granger) is caught in the middle of Bruno Anthony’s (Robert Walker) theory that two strangers can get away with murder.

Every minute of the movie was filled with suspense as my sister shut her eyes and covered her ears in fear. However, every moment of terror fueled my excitement as I watched in awe. The most beautiful part of the screening was when the audience would laugh or gasp in unison. Once Alfred Hitchcock made his cameo appearance, the crowd erupted in applause. There was a camaraderie there, and I loved every minute of it.

Before I knew it, the movie had ended as the curtains slowly closed. As I walked out of the room, I felt whole again. The Coolidge had given me that sense of togetherness I hadn’t witnessed in a long time. 

What people are saying about Coolidge Corner Theatre

Many people are sharing their appreciation for the Coolidge Corner Theatre.

One reviewer on Google says, “This is a great place to see a movie, for both the prices and the atmosphere. Styled like an old fashion movie theatre, this place looks how all movie theatres should look.”

Another Google reviewer praises the midnight showings, saying, “Their midnight movie program is the best in town.”

Positive reviews flood Google as each reviewer shares their pleasant experiences taking a trip to the cinema.

The future of Coolidge Corner Theatre

In June of 2021, the Coolidge Corner Theatre announced a new initiative called “The Campaign for the Coolidge.” The campaign is a $12.5 million project that will collaborate with architecture firm Höweler + Yoon to add 14,000 sq. ft. to its building. In this expansion, there will be two new rooms added to screen more diverse independent, first-run narrative, and documentary films. While one of the spaces will house 149 seats for lectures and performances, the other room is more intimate, with only 57 seats.

Along with new screening rooms, the lobby will expand with a new indoor box office, a larger concessions stand, additional restrooms, a refurbished elevator, and more accessibility. The Coolidge will add a third floor for its Community Education and Engagement Center. The space will provide classrooms for educational classes and lectures on film. The third floor will also include a media library with film books, movies on Blu-Ray, and unique Coolidge memorabilia.

No need to worry about the loss of history! The theatre plans to restore and preserve the art deco from its past. The Coolidge will update its carpeting and paint, revamp its lighting and electrical components, and add LED lighting to the signature marque. Coolidge Corner Theatre will also be free of fossil fuels, helping to save the planet one movie at a time.

On the Coolidge website, Katherine Tallman shares their reasoning behind the expansion:

The Campaign for the Coolidge allows us to expand our capacity to serve and grow our audiences with more curated programming, expanded educational and engagement programs, and a more welcoming, accessible experience for all. We are grateful to the many individuals, families, and foundations who have recognized the unique and indelible role the Coolidge plays in the community and who have contributed generously to ensure its vitality for generations to come.”

Why you should check out Coolidge Corner Theatre

You deserve an unforgettable experience when you spend time at the movie theatre. With the Coolidge Corner Theatre, you’ll never have to worry about having a good time. With its large selection of programs, classic or new movie showtimes, and elegant art decor, you’ll be frozen in time. It’s just you, your seat, and the movie screen in front of you.

Are you craving that excitement for the movies? At the Coolidge, every audience member has this sense of passion for film. You’ll always find someone to chat about the latest movie release or best silent film.

The employees get excited about their work too! They offer recommendations and accommodations with whatever you need. When you enter Coolidge Corner Theatre, you can feel the happy energy and love of cinema. You also get the ole’ time charm with a theatre like Coolidge. Who said old couldn’t be cool?

If you’re looking for an adventure like no other filled with thrill, a little bit of classic glamour, and movie theatre excellence, head over to the Coolidge Corner Theatre in Brookline, MA. I promise you; you will not be disappointed.

Check out screenings for the Coolidge. Ready to go to the movies now? Check out showtimes for new releases at movie theatres near you.

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