Tag Archives: Brattle

Of Fox and Disney in 02138

12 Nov

Favorite cinemas in Harvard, Davis squares are unaffected – so far – as Mouse cages Fox

By Tom Meek

Repertory theaters see cause for concern at Disney’s new control over decades’ worth of Fox films, says Ned Hinkle, creative director at Harvard Square’s Brattle Theatre. (Photo: The Brattle Theatre)

The launch of the Disney+ streaming service next week may be good for stay-at-home watchers of the Mouse’s classics and Pixar films, “The Simpsons” and tourists in the “Star Wars” and Marvel universes, but it also could shake up repertory cinemas that screen titles such as “All About Eve,” “The Sound of Music,” “The Revenant,” “Alien,” the original “Planet of the Apes” and Terrence Malick’s “The Thin Red Line” – including Harvard Square’s Brattle Theatre and the Somerville Theatre in Davis Square.

Disney, which acquired 20th Century Fox for $71 billion this year, seems to be quietly locking away the studio’s trove of 100 years of classics into its “vault,” Vulture reported last month. Disney did not announce a policy, but the sudden cancellation of booked screenings of Fox films (“The Omen” and “The Fly”) at theaters around the country sparked panic through the cinematic community that the movies might become no longer be available for exhibition.

One common theory is that Disney doesn’t want a current product (a new film such as the upcoming “Frozen II”) to compete against one of its classic/repertory films (say, “Fantasia” or “Bambi”).

“I understand the rationale might be to send people to Disney’s streaming service,” said Ian Judge, manager of Frame One’s Somerville Theatre. “We had dealt with this issue with Disney before they purchased Fox, and in order to get Disney repertory we had to have them reclassify Somerville as a repertory house in their system, which means we no longer play new Disney product there.”

That means that you’ll see only Disney-owned classics in Davis Square; new films from the company play at Frame One’s Capitol Theatre in Arlington. “We have been lucky to have that option, but for single locations, it’s putting them in a tough spot,” Judge said. 

The Brattle happens to be one of those single locations. “At the moment,” said Ned Hinkle, creative director at the Brattle, “this is not an issue for the Brattle – or any other purely repertory cinema – but having such a large corporate entity in charge of such a huge swath of cinema culture has everyone on edge.” Hinkle echoed Vulture’s concern of “not knowing” Disney’s long-term plans for popular repertory titles such as “The Princess Bride,” “Fight Club” and “Aliens” and other entries on Fox’s vast slate. The academically affiliated Harvard Film Archive is another “single location” repertory house that is not affected.

The one Fox film that Disney is keeping its paws off: Late-night cult classic “The Rocky Horror Picture Show,” which has had runs at the shuttered cinemas in Harvard Square and at the Apple Cinema at Fresh Pond (a nonrepertory theater) and is slated to play AMC’s non-rep Boston Common theater Saturday. But “Rocky Horror” has no Disney product to compete with.

More will likely become known as Disney+ launches, but for now, here, let the projectors roll.

Theater Updates

21 Dec

Trip to the movies changes for the luxurious, with more upgrades on the way along red line

Theaters by Alewife, Kendall, Davis and Harvard are all being refashioned

 

Apple Cinemas at Fresh Pond has received a refresh that includes luxurious recliners and reserved seating. (Photo: Apple Cinemas via Facebook)

Christmas and the usual slew of seasonal film openings is right around the corner, so after the tinsel trimming, paper shredding and eggnog overload, a trip to the cinema may be just what’s needed to take the edge off all the holiday cheer. Maybe a family excursion to Apple Cinemas at Fresh Pond, or perhaps a somber arthouse seating at the Landmark Kendall Square Cinema? If you haven’t been to these venues recently, there’s been considerable change – and more is coming.

For one, both theaters replaced their old stadium-style seats recently with recliners (Kendall has a mix of recliners and rockers, which are a bit less like a La-Z-Boy) and Apple Cinemas now features reserved seating like the AMC in Assembly Square, as well as self-serve ticketing and concessions. All of this is part of a trend in cinema-going sparked by lux-experience theaters (see: Showplace Icon at Seaport or the Showcase SuperLux Chestnut Hill). Almost two years ago Landmark added beer and wine, with general manager Howard Sandler pointing to the local brewers among the offerings.

Also this month, the parent company of the Kendall Square Cinema, Landmark Theatres, was sold by Mark Cuban’s group to Cohen Media Group, an independent film distribution company formed in 2008 with such credits as “Frozen River.” The deal ends months of speculation that saw Amazon and Netflix in the running. Just how the deal will affect the chain and Kendall Square location specifically is unclear, but the group’s head, Charles S. Cohen, is a cinephile. The news is likely only good and comes at an opportune time: The site has been affected greatly by a two-year construction buildout out front that has made getting to the theater difficult and confusing.

Across the line in Davis Square, the Somerville Theatre just renovated downstairs theaters 2 and 3 with new seats, a Dolby sound system upgrade and wide screens that pretty much ensure there’s not a bad viewing angle in the house. Director of operations Ian Judge says renovation of the restrooms and lower-level lobby area is next. 

Richard Fraiman – owner of Frame One Theatres and operator of the Somerville Theatre and Capitol Theatre in Arlington – is slated to add the theater space in the old Harvard Square AMC on Church Street whenever a new structure is ultimately built out. According to attorney (and former Cambridge mayor) Anthony Galluccio, who represents property owner Kirche and billionaire developer Gerald Chan, demolition of the old building is scheduled for January with an ongoing review by the Cambridge Historical Commission. Traffic counters have been posted to help gauge traffic impacts from demolition and construction, as well as for business use when the 60,000-square-foot structure is finally built. Given the congestion in Harvard Square and proximity to the T, demolition and construction will need to be done with some care. 

The theaters there have been dark since since AMC sold it to Charles Hotel owner Richard Friedman back in 2012 for $6.5 million. Kirche picked it up for $17.5 million in 2014. Amid allegations of real estate warehousing, the city pressured Chan for development plans. Estimates for the building’s completion are early to mid-2020s. The mixed-use building will have two below-ground theaters that Frame One will program. Judge said it’s hard to say anything else beyond that until there is an actual space to lease.

The Brattle Theatre carries on meanwhile as the square’s cinema stalwart, but the future for cinephiles seeking screenings off the red line looks bright.

Of all things Kurosawa

20 Nov

Brattle’s full week of ‘Kurosawa in History’ shows how West was won by East’s auteur

 

Image result for yojimbo

One thing I dislike when reading about film: reviews or other critical pieces infused with the word “I.” It’s not about you, it’s about the art, and letting your words about the art convert that “I.”

That said, here “I” go – and I promise to get to Akira Kurosawa, but indulge me for a moment.

Growing up, I wasn’t really that big a film fan. Granted we had only three channels the aerial could catch, and living in a town of 3,000 you had to drive two towns away to find our single-screen theaters, which didn’t get “Star Wars” until six months after its opening. (One was just an auditorium in a town hall.) So for me as a kid, film was mostly John Wayne and Godzilla, and while I couldn’t get enough of the man in the rubber suit, I didn’t like the former much – he seemed phony and too righteous, when the world around me was a darker, less black and white place. You knew things didn’t get resolved by some beefy human with a twangy drawl riding in at high noon, guns blazing.  

The one other movie during this era that grabbed me was “A Fistful of Dollars” (1964). Not only was Clint Eastwood’s no-name badass cool and scruffily handsome, he answered Wayne with moral ambiguity; in those spaghetti westerns the good and the righteous often got their asses kicked, hard. Even with its quirk and dark, tongue-in-cheek humor, Sergio Leone’s cornerstone western felt genuine, authentic from the top down the first time I saw it – and it still does today, hundreds of screenings later. (Though over time there would become many Wayne films I would came to adore – “The Shootist,” “Stagecoach,” perhaps mostly “The Man who Shot Liberty Valance.”)

Flash forward to college. As part of my English major at a small liberal arts school, film was on my eclectic list of elective, dubbed “clapping for credit” and quite popular with athletes (I’ll let you all guess my two sports) because the professor, a man named Roger Farrand used to lecture us for a scant half-hour, then roll film; by the time the lights came up, there was maybe five to 10 people remaining of the 30-plus people enrolled. He loved film so much and was so excited by it that if you paid attention during his preamble you could walk out and still safely get a B – he told you everything you needed to know for a quiz or paper. Continue reading

Neon Blaze

12 Jan

 

Kensho Technology’s sign over 44 Brattle St., Harvard Square. (Photo: Tom Meek)

The bidirectional bike lane on Brattle Street has company in controversy since Kensho Technologies, a growing player in the machine learning and analytics market targeting the finance, health care and national security sectors, has alerted residents and visitors to its new digs at 44 Brattle St. by erected a giant, electric blue neon sign – an intensely bright beacon that one passer-by described as an “optical oddity.”

Nowhere else in the historically zoned Harvard Square are there any such stark illuminations. The Kensho moniker stands out even more against the sheer spareness of the glass-encased building it occupies and the wintertime darkness that consumes Brattle Street at night.

The sign went up just over a week ago.

According to Charles Sullivan, executive director of the Cambridge Historical Commission, it is not in violation of any code or ordinance. “The Kensho sign was reviewed by [Community Development and Inspectional Services] and found to conform with the provisions of the sign code. The City Sports signs on the exterior of the building will be replaced with Kensho signs also,” Sullivan said, referring to the remains of the sporting goods store that closed all of its 26 stores in 2015.

“The other issue,” he pointed out, “is the commission’s lack of jurisdiction over interior features generally.”

The city has lagged in writing and adopting coherent outdoor-lighting laws since invasive light complaints came before the City Council and city planners at least a decade ago; the lack of ability to limit illumination leaking from building interiors has been cited by many as a weakness of the most recent efforts. In September, a despairing councillor said the city would be better off adopting a resident-written law from 2013.

Some are concerned about the precedent set by the tech company’s branding. “Kensho’s new neon window sign points to the need to reconsider standards for both exterior and interior signage in the Harvard Square Conservation District,” said vice mayor Jan Devereux, who believed a study group was in process to review the conservation district’s guidelines.

The lights can be dimmed, Kensho said. But inside its offices, workers seemed literally above any complaints.

“We hadn’t had any such feedback as of yet,” said Bhavesh Dayalji, head of client operations for the company. “We’re happy to be part of revitalizing Harvard Square, as more and more retail spaces are left empty. We’re also one of the largest employers of engineers in the Cambridge community and excited about some of the plans we have for the future that will benefit the wider Cambridge community.”

Most innovation ventures in Cambridge settle in and around Kendall Square, and much of the office space that Kensho now occupies, as Dayalji points out, had been vacant for some time.

One observer in Harvard Square seemed to appreciate what Kensho had installed, calling it “a sign of the times. You’ve gotta keep up.”

 

The 13th Annual Independent Film Festival Boston

30 Apr

‘Gather Round’ For The 13th Annual Independent Film Festival Boston

A scene from "The Look of Silence." (Courtesy)

The tagline’s meant to underscore not only the concept of old fashion storytelling around the communal fire pit, but also the sense of community among filmmakers and filmgoers alike and the cross pollination of the two. Something the festival has had great success with in the past, bringing in such distinguished guests as Academy Award-winning actor Ben Kingsley and groundbreaking documentarian Albert Maysles. Local boy Casey Affleck has lent to the fest’s cred too, serving as its creative adviser and the popular indie actress Lili Taylor, starring in the new TV series “American Crime,” sits on the advisory board.

The festival has become something of Sundance East, with lines from the Somerville Theatre in Davis Square stemming around the block as eager moviegoers chase that elusive last ticket or hope to snag that prized center seating. But with sellout after sellout, the festival is still changing and growing.

“We want to be more,” says executive director Brian Tamm, “we want to do more with the city of Somerville and the arts community. We want to be more of resource and community for filmmakers here in Boston and Massachusetts. We also want to expand more into Boston.”

Tamm cites the UMass Boston “Works in Progress” program and award given to a promising documentary not yet completed. There are also select screenings, he says, at the Coolidge Corner Theatre, but Davis Square is the de facto hub of the fest with other regular screenings augmented at the Brattle Theatre in Harvard Square.

A scene from "Results." (Courtesy)

That’s the future, for now IFFB has proven its mettle; for 13 years IFFB has operated on a wholly volunteer structure, but things have started to change. With the departure of longtime program director Adam Roffman (who remains on as a board member) last year, Tamm took on the newly created executive director role and longtime festival organizer, Nancy Campbell took over the reigns as program director. Part of the reason for the new structure, now capping its second festival, was to give prospective sponsors a conventional front door to gain traction with easily versus the “kibbutz” style, as Tamm jokingly calls the old “by committee” structure, that may have caused confusion with past potential investors and other backing organizations.   Continue reading

5 Sep

Summer — ‘tis the season of the blockbuster, or so Hollywood hopes, right? But who knew a blockbuster would sweep through the beloved Boston-area art house, the Brattle Theatre?

In case you were sleeping or don’t believe me, it happened, lines around the block and sold-out shows, night after night.

In Tinseltown there are formulas to these things, but it’s not all that secret or complex: something old (remakes and sequels to money makers), something borrowed (TV shows, young adult hits) or something novel (let’s pair up Walter White and a lovely French actress with a giant CGI lizard). Many of these endeavors cost well over the $100 million mark and while they receive poor to tepid critical reaction, they tend to turn a buck in the long run when you factor in foreign releases and Video on Demand (VOD). But every summer there’s always a wild card, that offbeat something cooked with a modest budget (just tens of millions) that comes out of left field and hits bigger than most expect it would.

(Courtesy, Brattle Theatre)

“Lucy” is one such example. Made by French provocateur Luc Besson through a collaboration of European outlets. The gonzo sci-fi crime thriller was modestly released stateside by Paramount in first run theaters and made more in its first week in the U.S. than its entire budget (of $40 million). Of course, having the actress du jour (Scarlett Johansson) and a ready made audience (those who love Besson for his edgy, cultish works; “Le Femme Nikita,” “The Professional” and “The Fifth Element”) helps, but not always does such pedigree guarantee big box office biz or fiscal love from the mighty studio machine.

Take the case of “Snowpiercer,” the bleak futuristic depiction of the remnants of a post-apocalyptic society living on a super Acela after the battle with global warming has gone bust and Earth is little more than a giant ice cube. Directed by Joon-ho Bong, the Korean auteur behind “The Host” and “Mother,” making his first English language film with an international cast featuring Ed Harris, Tilda Swinton, Jamie Bell (“Billy Elliot”), Octavia Spencer (“The Help”), Kang-ho Song (“The Host”) and Captain America himself, Chris Evans.

Movie mogul Harvey Weinstein, who has always had a reputation for tweaking the product (his fingerprints are all over “Gangs of New York” and “Next Stop Wonderland”), wanted Bong to dumb-down the film to broaden its appeal. Bong refused and Weinstein sent “Snowpiercer” off to his Radius/TWC subsidiary for a smaller foot-print/alternative release.

What that means is, no mass marketing and a soon-after-theatrical-release, or simultaneous, VOD issuance. No big movie chain like AMC or Regal wants to touch such a film as the prospect of a looming VOD date tends to kill the box office draw (the thought being that viewers will just stay at home and stream the film for less) and that’s when the Brattle jumped in. “Snowpiercer” had already done killer business in Korea and France.

With acumen and luck, Brattle program director Ned Hinkle booked the film. The cherished Harvard Square institution got in a week scot-free as the VOD date was set for one week later. and the film wasn’t playing anywhere else in Boston.

The decision bore box office gold as fans of Bong, dystopian futurescapes and the hunky actor who happens to also play “Captain America,” lined up around the block.   Continue reading

Bike Porn

20 Mar

Bike Porn cranks your gears in Cambridge

Blown tires?

By TOM MEEK  |  April 14, 2010

1040_bikes-main

The Combat Zone’s been cleaned up and paved over. The days of the porn-movie house went out with the Internet. But if you still want to view steamy cinema in a public setting, we have a festival for you. Provided, that is, that you’re okay with hot bike-on-bike action.

Bike Porn 3: Cycle Bound, The Backlash Tour is rolling into Boston (well, Cambridge, at the Brattle Theater) on April 21, with its fusion of fetish-fueled erotica, art-house amateurism, and bikes. Not to be confused with the Boston Bike Film Fest or the Bicycle Film Festival, this freaky tour’s curator, Reverend Phil Sano, and his posse literally roll into each of the 50 cities it is visiting, as they come in on two wheels. Often that bicycle parade collects a mass of fans and other riders transmuting the tour’s arrival into an impromptu carnival on wheels.  Continue reading