So it doesn’t have the art deco glamour of the Coolidge Corner Theater and its latter years as a multiplex were a little forlorn. But the Circle Cinemas, which overlooked Boston’s Cleveland Circle neighborhood since 1940, will soon fall to the wrecking ball, and a little piece of Boston’s entertainment history will be lost.
It doesn’t have to disappear forever.
Just over six months ago I met Susan Legere at one of my art shows. (Another one of those unexpected connections). She was a sociologist with a fondness for vintage signs. We stayed in touch and finally sat down over felafel in May to brainstorm about projects that combined photos and the stories behind them.
Because of her affiliation with Boston College, Susan often walked around the Chestnut Hill Reservoir and admired the quirky retro sign embellishing the Circle Cinemas. As a long-term Brighton resident, I knew the theater well. It made perfect sense. The theater had been closed since 2008 and plans for a new mixed-use development on the site were underway. The structure was likely to be gone by the end of the year.
And so Long Live Circle Cinema was born.
Our goals are twofold. First, we would like to assemble an archive of recollections, photos, and memorabilia related to the Circle Cinemas (and its predecessor Circle Theatre). We’re not trying to sentimentalize the cinema — by the end of its active life the theater bore almost no resemblance to its original 1940 design and was no longer “Boston’s finest suburban theatre.” But we do want to document its role in the community before it’s gone. We are thrilled that the Brighton Allston Historical Society has agreed to house whatever materials we collect.
And, second, we are working to find a way to save the sign. It won’t be easy — and neither one of us has undertaken a project like this before. But we love that sign, rust spots and all, and would be heartbroken to see it sold for scrap. We’re reaching out to potential resources with a goal of finding a new home for this example of mid-century commercial design, although we can’t be sure it will stay in New England.
After only a few short weeks, our campaign is gaining momentum. The Brookline TAB published a piece about our project this week, and other media outlets have been in touch. Our Facebook page is online but could seriously use some more likes. (That’s a not-so-subtle hint. Please navigate to the page and click the “Like” button just under the banner photo on the right. You won’t regret it.)
Finally, stay in touch. We invite you to share your recollections and memories of the theater — good, bad, or indifferent. Feel free to post something on Long Live Circle Cinema or, if Facebook isn’t your thing, send us an email at email@example.com. We can’t wait to hear from you!