Abbey Cinema

600 Commonwealth Avenue,
Boston, MA 02215

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Showing 1 - 25 of 34 comments

Nataloff on March 20, 2016 at 2:02 pm

Before it was Loew’s Abbey, the Abbey was owned by Robert (Bobby) Epstein. Bobby was the first exhibitor I ever worked with when I entered PR in Boston and he spoiled me. When he booked the AIP release of the commonwealth United production of “Julius Caesar,” starring Charlton Heston, I handled group sales and kept the Abbey filled with high school field trips for months. (I apologize to all those students who had to sit through “Julius Caesar.”) I suspect Bob simply tired of exhibition, because he formed a partnership with writer Allan Folsom and tried to produce movies. (Later Folsom did become a screenwriter and novelist.)

rivest266 on May 11, 2013 at 1:48 pm

This opened on March 27th, 1968

David192 on March 28, 2013 at 11:45 am

Note to Phil, we about wore a hole through the James Taylor “Fire & Rain” album. We had a Sony r/r tape deck in the original theater.

I think I ran “Last Picture Show” about a million times (was an operator back then). I can still recite most of the lines in the script….

Bruce_Bartoo on July 19, 2012 at 11:34 pm

A further detail on Bill Glazer’s shooting which I heard a few years later was that when he submitted a request for a new Loews jacket because the one he had been wearing had a bullet hole in it, the company depreciated the damaged jacket and only gave him partial payment for it.

dickneeds111 on May 31, 2012 at 2:30 pm

I believe the biggest movie that played there was Zefferelli’s Romeo & Juliet. If it opened here then I believe it played for about a year. If it didn’t open here and was on a moveover It still played a long time.

Marc golden
Marc golden on December 30, 2010 at 2:16 pm

I worked at the Loews Abbey Cinema from around 1972-1974. I remember almost everyone . Bill Glazer was the G manager.He got shot there for refusing to give a robber $. Chris Davitt was the Projectionist, Maria Darcangelo, Diane Gardner,Donna Tessari, Donna Frost,Al Pignat,Carolann Mahoney,Jim Palladino,John Rafferty, Mark Chalpin.
we had lots of fun there.around the corner was this club The Box. Aerosmith played there.I cant for the Life for me remember the biggest movie that played there, except some R Rated Cheerleading one.

Ron Newman
Ron Newman on September 20, 2010 at 2:57 pm

Definitely not this one, which opened in 1968 (see earlier comments)

suilleabhain on August 20, 2010 at 11:50 am

I saw the Beatles" second film, “Help,” with my Mom when it was released in 1965 (I was six). Does anybody know what theater in Downtown Boston it opened at?

danpetitpas on August 18, 2008 at 10:47 pm

Thanks, Ron, I stand corrected. I thought it was quicker than that. I might have had a job for 8 years there if they had hired me.

I came across a quote from Ty Barr in the October 16, 2005 Boston Globe where he said the Nickelodeon “…became the first art house to outgross a mainstream chain.”

Ron Newman
Ron Newman on August 18, 2008 at 4:17 pm

USACinemas did eventually buy the Nickelodeon, but not until 1986. By that time, the Nick had moved out of this location and into a new building a block away. See the Nickelodeon page for more information.

danpetitpas on August 18, 2008 at 4:07 pm

I didn’t see this mentioned on either this page or the Nickelodeon page, so I’m proud to be the one to bring up this little bit of history.

Right after I graduated from college in 1978, I was looking around for work, and came across an ad to be the manager of the Nickelodeon Theatre in Kenmore Square, which was the old Loew’s Abbey. I had an interview with the owner who introduced himself as Joel, I think, which research reveals would have been Joel Tranum. He told me he owned the Nickelodeon on the Cape, which showed independent and revival films, and he was going to play the same in Boston. He had applied a fresh coat of paint to the theater, and things were pretty tidy, although I remember that the main theater had columns that blocked some views of the screen, and that some seats were too far on the left and the right to be able to see anything but a distorted view. We talked for a while, but I got the impression I was too young for him, and he tried to scare me off by saying that he could only pay me $3 or $4 an hour and I would have to open the theater at 11 am, close it at midnight, or 2 am on the weekends and work 6 days a week, which sounded great to me at the time. But he eventually hired a slightly older woman as manager.

At first, the theater only played “classic” movies. I remember seeing a washed out print of Forbidden Planet at a matinee with only one other customer in the place. What had happened was movie distributors considered Boston/Brookline/Cambridge one market, and any theater that won a film had an exclusive engagement in the area. But I think in six months, Joel had convinced the distributors to consider the cities as separate markets and business really took off at the Nick with first-run indie movies. The place would be packed most nights and weekends.

USA Cinemas took instant notice of this new competitor in its midst, and where it had ignored indie films before, it suddenly took a great interest in the theater, and I think, in about a year’s time, it bought the Nick and embraced indie programming, eventually moving to more mainstream specialty films from the studios and larger independent distributors.

According to an article I found from the Burlington (VT) Free Press in 2003, Tranum opened Nickelodeons in Portland, Maine and Burlington, Vermont, in addition to the one on Cape Cod, and he eventually sold them out to bigger theater chains. The article identified him as a Boston-based developer.

As far as I know, the Nick was the only challenger to USA Cinemas' monopoly in Boston in 25 years, and it was quickly bought out to keep a lock on the market.

DennisJOBrien on January 11, 2007 at 7:04 pm

I distinctly remember trying to see “Romeo and Juliet” here in the autumn of 1968, yet it was sold out and we decided to go to another movie downtown. However, in the early winter of 1969 I did manage to get into a matinee showing of “Romeo and Juliet” here and even then the seats were difficult to obtain. It was not a very big theater at all. It also had a strange design for an auditorium, with sections heading off to the left and right of the screen. If you sat in one of the side sections, I think the view would have been warped. The sound quality in the cinema and the screen size were not the best, either. Yet, “Romeo and Juliet” was such a blockbuster that it continued here for ages. I was later a student at B.U. from 1970 on and I saw a few other showings here.

Phillip Jacquart
Phillip Jacquart on September 29, 2005 at 11:31 am

I have memories of servicing the projection booth equipment at the Abbey Twin in the early 70’s while working for RCA Service Co. What stays with me most to this day is the intermission music that was played on a 33 rpm record player. James Taylor’s Fire and Rain.

David Wodeyla
David Wodeyla on June 28, 2005 at 9:28 am

Sometimes Corporate Annual Reports paint an optimistic picture. I recall the era and location. BU students were more often found dancing at Lucifer’s in Kenmore Square, a block away.

Ron Newman
Ron Newman on June 28, 2005 at 5:06 am

The 1971 annual report of Loews Corporation says:

“In the Back Bay area of Boston, Loews acquired the Abbey I and Abbey II Twin Cinemas, two highly successful theatres adjoining the Charles River Campus of Boston University, in a prime growth area. As the neighborhood changes from brownstones townhouses [sic] to upper-income, high rise apartments, so the opportunities for modernization and for quality film exhibition increase.”

David Wodeyla
David Wodeyla on April 19, 2005 at 9:47 pm

Keep in perspective, the era of the late sixties and early seventies when students were protesting the establishment, and first-run hollywood film wasn’t a cool way to occupy your leisure time. Especially at first run admission prices. The students were going to the Orson Welles midnight shows on the weekends in that era too. Of course, there were also dozens of clubs around Kenmore Square and Brighton as the time, competing for the student entertainment dollar.

ecosgrove on April 19, 2005 at 8:43 am

No idea. Just went out of business, I guess.

Ron Newman
Ron Newman on April 19, 2005 at 8:41 am

Do you remember why it closed? I’m curious why a cinema in the heart of a student district did not succeed and remained dark for over three years.

ecosgrove on April 19, 2005 at 8:35 am

Late June, 1975. I remember there was a party for the employees at a nearly Kenmore Square bar.

Ron Newman
Ron Newman on April 18, 2005 at 9:02 pm

Cool. I assume you mean closed as the Abbey, rather than as the first Nick. When did it close?

ecosgrove on April 18, 2005 at 4:33 pm

I worked here for 2 weeks before it closed. It was playing “Blazing Saddles” the day I first met the man who became my husband. “B.S.” always seems romantic to me now.

Ron Newman
Ron Newman on March 4, 2005 at 7:11 am

By the time it closed and moved down the street, the first Nickelodeon had three screens.

Ron Newman
Ron Newman on March 4, 2005 at 6:29 am

Here’s a story that is NOT characteristic of the audience that the (first) Nickelodeon normally attracted. From the Boston Globe, December 25, 1981:


Theater seats were slashed, fabric was torn off walls, a window was smashed, and so “D.O.A,” a documentary film featuring the Sex Pistols and other 1977-78 era punk rock bands, closed at the Nickelodeon Theater.

The highly regarded film, based on the English band’s brief 1978 US tour, opened Dec. 16 and played for just six days.

“It was too much aggravation,” said Nickelodeon manager Bruce Bartoo, in a telephone interview. “It’s unfortunate. The classic line is a few people spoil it for everybody, but it’s getting to be standard.”

The theater suffered vandalism every day.

Bartoo said the film had been selling “all right, not great.”

The Nickelodeon previously booked “The Decline of Western Civilisation,” a documentary on the Los Angeles hardcore punk rock scene.

“There were a few problems during Decline',” Bartoo said, “and it escalated with ( D.O.A.‘)

David Wodeyla
David Wodeyla on March 3, 2005 at 9:00 am

I think the building was originally called the Psychedelic Supermarket, where I saw the Moody Blues in 1967 or ‘68. It was a large hall at the time.

Ron Newman
Ron Newman on March 2, 2005 at 11:18 pm

According to a Boston Globe article published on April 26, 1981, the Abbey Cinema opened in 1968 in part of what had been a warehouse. Abbey II opened the following year.