Born long before IMAX-3D, Boston’s independent movie theaters have maintained their antiquated character through the turbulent digital age. As many small theaters are forced to face the “convert or die” dilemma, some—like the late Harvard Square Theatre—can’t afford to make the upgrade, and become heartbreaking losses to the local historic landscape. To keep up with the times, these theaters received the community support and funding to secure digital projectors like big screen game players, while still retaining their classic good looks. A citywide enthusiasm for independent cinema led to the creation of the Independent Film Festival of Boston in 2003. More than a hundred screenings take place each year—indie darling premiers and underground gems—helping to preserve the counterculture spirit on Boston’s silver screen.
Coolidge Corner Theatre
An Art Deco movie palace since 1933, this beloved Brookline landmark boasts enough epic programming to keep any cinephile smiling from ear to ear. Grab a beer and a bucket of popcorn and see a big-screen classic like Blazing Saddles, Jaws, and The Wizard of Oz in theaters again. If you’re a cult horror movie fan in town in October, go for the annual overnight Halloween Horror Movie Marathon.
Originally a stage theater, the city’s self-proclaimed “Unofficial Film School Since 1953” is now praised for bringing foreign and art-house films to Cambridge audiences. Known for showing films of high cultural merit that are rejected from the mainstream and can’t be shown elsewhere, Brattle is also the annual host of the Boston Underground Film Festival.
Out in the Boston suburb of historic Arlington, this neighborhood theater with old-fashioned charm has been entertaining the area since 1925. The marquee advertises independent films and Oscar nominees, with a special focus on the major family-friendly flicks of the moment. After the show, bring the kids to The Capitol Creamery, an adjacent ice cream parlor serving locally churned Richardson’s ice cream. Try the minty Green Monster with swirls of fudge and Oreo cookies.
This is one of Boston’s most unique entertainment venues, featuring both stage and screen productions since 1914. In addition to showing lesser known independent cinema, the main stage hosts comedy shows and dramatic plays, and has seen famous names like Bruce Springsteen and Adele grace it’s stage. A movie ticket also includes admission to the exquisitely tacky Museum Of Bad Art, located in the theatre basement.
Kendall Square Cinema
A subsidiary of Landmark Theatres, this is the youngest sanctuary in Boston for independent films. While it’s a home to 3D Hollywood blockbusters, it retains its avant-garde charm for showing hard-to-find underground films and documentaries. Begin a classic dinner and movie evening at one of the many acclaimed restaurants in Kendall Square, like the equally unique restaurant The Friendly Toast.