The smell of warm, buttered popcorn fills the air as the lights go down and the show begins. The audience holds a collective breath of anticipation as the first frame falls on the screen. This feeling may be fleeting, slowly being lost with the increasing ease of streaming. It is now easier than ever to stream new movies on TV and mobile devices, and many movie theaters across the country have been sitting empty in the wake of the pandemic. The magic of the movies has been missing from our lives. But a bit of that magic is about to return to the Boston area. The Coolidge Corner Theatre began the process of reopening on Thursday, May 13 after over a year of disruption.
The Coolidge is an independent theatre in Brookline dedicated to enriching the community through cinema. The theatre has a long and fascinating history starting with its founding in 1933. Financial struggles in the 70s and 80s led the theatre to the brink of closure. Just as an agreement had been reached to demolish or convert the space, a local film teacher named David Kleiler led a community movement which rallied support for the theatre. Kleiler’s group, called Friends of the Coolidge, recognized the theatre for its historical, cultural, and communal significance. The group eventually became the Coolidge Corner Theatre Foundation, which launched a capital campaign to buy back the building from the developer. With a generous intervention by another local, Harold Brown, the Coolidge was triumphantly reopened on November 8, 1989. Today, it still stands as a reminder of all things to love about cinema.
This past year posed a new challenge for the Coolidge. At the onset of the pandemic, it was forced to shut down. The theatre has spent the last 13 months urgently adapting to virtual screenings, Zooms, outdoor events, and private parties. But now, it has finally reopened its doors. On May 13, the Coolidge began a phased, limited capacity reopening. This reopening featured a collection of classics and favorites, including Get Out, The Grand Budapest Hotel, and 2001: A Space Odyssey.
The Coolidge is a favorite among many Boston College students. Only a short ride down the green line, it’s a very accessible outing. Michaela Brant, MCAS ‘23, discussed her enjoyment of going to the Coolidge with friends. It’s not just about the movie for her—the theatre itself has a presence to it that is unique and intriguing. Unlike a commercial or chain theatre, the interior is ornately decorated, giving the space a more alluring energy. “I remember being really blown away by that,” Brant recalled.
Going out to see a movie is becoming less and less common. Even before the pandemic, the increasing ease of streaming movies from our computers has shifted the norms of moviegoing. Of course, better accessibility to movies is an important step forward. However, it is also important that we not lose our appreciation for live cinema, especially at a place like the Coolidge.
As we are beginning to see the light at the end of the pandemic’s long, dark tunnel, it would be easy to let ourselves fall away from moviegoing. But so much would be lost. “There’s that special feeling of being so involved in a movie and walking out of the theater and kind of being hit with the real world when you go outside,” said Brant. This is not something to be taken for granted.
The Coolidge is a magnificent theatre that Boston College is fortunate to be so close to. The experience of seeing a movie there is special, and the theatre is a great organization to support. So grab your popcorn and find a friend to go with you! See a movie you never thought you would. Try something new. The magic of the movies is irreplaceable, and the Coolidge is just a few T stops away.