South Station Theatre
Summer Street and Dorchester Avenue,
Summer Street and Dorchester Avenue,Boston, MA 02110
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The Mass. Department of Transportation blog has a short article about the South Station Theatre with two photos:
MarkB- the Globe is off by about 10 years. The theater closed about 1955 and was renovated into a chapel, Our Lady of the Railways. This happened while I was a commuter student on the New Haven RR 1954-58.
The Boston Globe – Boston.com – is running a slide show feature of South Station today (12/24/12). It says that the theatre closed and was replaced by a chapel in 1945. The chapel had daily and Sunday services until 1972.
I don’t have a scanner. I could upload photos of it to snapfish and send an album; but I think that is only by email addresses. I’m in JP. If someone wants to borrow it to scan it and upload it here to share with everyone that would be fine.
Can you scan that in, upload it to some place like flickr or photobucket, and post a link to it here?
Is anyone collecting memorabilia from the South Station Theatre ? I have an orignal program from the 1930’s that is in perfect condition. It is for the week of July 19th and lists the coming shows for July 26th. It includes everything from Popeye cartoons and Melody Parade to Ruth Etting and Row Mister Row.
My mother Lorraine Hebert Gaspa met her future husband George while she was working for the theatre. They both lived in Cambridge, Ma across the street from each other. This is where my mother met my dad. My dad George T. Gaspa past away on January 25th, 2005 at the age of 83.
Mrs. Gaspa is quite correct that there were 2 entrances to the South Station Theatre when she worked there in the early 1940s. The exterior entrance was on Summer Street and its left edge was only about 8 feet from the corner of Dorchester Ave. Up above and right at the corner was a fancy verticle blade sign which read “Theatre”. There was no marquee but there was plenty of signage around and above the entrance. To the right was the Union Hat Co. store which sold work clothes and sportswear. This half of South Station was demolished 30-plus years ago.
I can’t believe that I’ve been taking the commuter rail to South Station for the past 3 years and didn’t know my grandmother worked there 60 years ago. I’m Lorraine Gaspa’s grandson and I commute to South Station from the Worcester line to go to work. I wish they still had the cinema because I often have to wait over an hour for my train back to Worcester.
Wow — thank you so much for posting this!
Did she meet her future husband at the theatre while working there?
Wow Mom! Nana looks great in her uniform. Thanks for the cool picture.
I am writing for my mother Lorraine Gaspa who is 85 years old. She used to work at the South Station Theatre in Boston, MA. She lived in Cambridge, MA and traveled there at the age of 19. At the time she worked she was hired as an usherette. She was called the Head Usherette. She was the only usherette at the time she was hired. All the other ushers there were boys. She cannot recall how many ushers there were in all.
When she started working she recalls having four different jobs that she would do:
1) My mom would sell tickets at a ticket booth at the back entrance of the theatre. My mom remembers two entrances to get into this theatre, and two tickets booths. The first ticket booth and entrance was located right outside of the theatre inside South Station. The second ticket booth and entrance was located at the back of the theatre which was off the street.
2) My mom showed people to their seats using a flashlight.
3) My mom walked around in South Station and gave out pamphlets advertising what was happening at the theatre in South Station.
4) When my mom first started her job she wore her own skirt from home and a uniform top that they provided. She had to climb on a ladder and change the sign. This sign was attached to the outside of the theatre. She remembers placing posters inside the sign of what was happening at the South Station Theatre. Some of the older men would hold the ladder for my mom and at the same time look up her skirt. My mom’s boss saw this and had a tailor come and he measured my mother for a pair of uniform theatre pants. She was now dressed like all the other ushers in pants!
This is a photograph of my mother in her South Station Theater uniform at age 19.
Note: My mother Lorraine Hebert Gaspa became engaged to George T. Gaspa while working at the South Station Theatre in Boston, MA and married on 2-21-1943.
That’s correct, Ron. There’s an office building now on the site of the section of South Station which contained the cinema. And, since it was located at the east end of the property, the correct address would be “Summer Street and Dorchester Avenue”.
I’m going to suggest changing the status of this to “Closed/Demolished”, since people agree that this part of the South Station building no longer stands.
The South Station Theatre is listed in the 1942-43 Motion Picture Almanac as part of the Levenson Circuit, 250 Stuart St. in Boston, Joseph M. Levenson, pres. The circuit ran 12 theatres at the time, including the Coolidge Corner Theatre and the Brookline Theatre in Brookline.
The Boston Post for Sept 23, 1947 has an alphabetical list of Boston movie theatres on its entertainment page with the current schedule of movies. For the South Station Theatre, the entry says that it’s open from 930AM to Midnight, with the following: “Song of a Nation”, “Party Line”, Sports, Travel, The Answer Man, Cartoons, Comedy, News.
I didn’t know that! Here’s a photo of Our Lady of the Railways chapel, dated 1963.
This little cinema was located in the far eastern end of South Station, a section of the station which was demolished in the early 1970s for the Stone & Webster Building., The cinema had an entrance from the concourse. There was an outside entrance located on Summer St. just before the corner at Dorchester Ave. I believe that this outside entrance was gone in the 1950s. I never went into the cinema because I was never delayed waiting for trains. Around the middle 1950s, the cinema was closed and converted into a chapel, Our Lady of the Railways. There was a polished brass steam locomotive bell from a New Haven RR locomotive at the entrance. I believe that the chapel remained until the demolition. The MGM Theatre Photograph and Report form for this cinema has a photo dated May 1941 of the outside entrance. There is one double door with “Station Theatre” up above. There are signs which say “News” “Short Subjects” and “24 Hour Program”. The Report states that it is called South Station Theatre, that it has been a MGM customer for over 5 years, that it was built less than 10 years ago; that it is in Fair condition; is a Newsreel theatre with 550 seats on one floor.
Spent many an hour while waiting for my train. March of Time, This is America, Pete Smith Specialty, Joe McDoakes Behind the Eight Ball, Fitzpatrick’s Travel Talks, 3 Stooges, and serials.
According to Donald C. King’s new book The Theatres of Boston: A Stage and Screen History, this was Boston’s first newsreel theatre, opened in 1936. It was later joined by the the Trans-Lux, the Telepix, and the (second) Old South.
London had 3 newsreel/short subject cinemas located in railway stations.
1. Located at Victoria Station (Platform 19) as mentioned above and listed on Cinema Treasures (demolished)
2. Waterloo Station, (demolished)
3. Baker Street Underground Tube Station – Topical News Theatre (currently retail use).
When cinema newsreels ceased production due to tv coverage, the newsreel cinemas first went over to all cartoon and short subjects. Later in the 1960’s they went over to screening double bill feature films (apart from the Victoria Station Cartoon Cinema which had no toilet facilities, and continued on cartoons until it closed in 1981)
The ad says the theatre was “OPPOSITE TRACK 27”. This track number no longer exists, so I suspect that the theatre was located in a part of the station that was demolished in the 1970s or earlier. The History of South Station website is worth visiting, as is the station itself.
Was it once common for major train stations to have newsreel and short-subject cinemas like this one? I see at least three others listed here at CinemaTreasures:
Grand Central Theatre, New York
Newsreel Theatre, Cincinnati
Victoria Station News Theatre, London
This history page briefly mentions the theatre. Here’s an advertisement for the theatre.
Listed in Film Daily Yearbooks, 1941 and 1943 editions as the South Station Terminal Theatre with a seating capacity of 500.
The 1950 edition of F.D.Y. has a Terminal Theatre listed (800 seats) so not sure if this is the same theatre