Saving the Circle

Stylized photo of the Circle Cinemas sign

This charming retro sign will soon be gone forever unless a new home can be found.

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 longlivecirclecinema@gmail.com.  We can’t wait to hear from you!

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4 Responses to Saving the Circle

  1. Tony Mazzucco June 20, 2013 at 9:25 pm #

    Hi Guys,

    I was a manager at Circle from 2006 until it closed in 2008. I can tell you that sign is from 1940, and there used to be three or them (I have a photo copied picture i can scan and email that shows what the building front looked like in 1941.

    I can also tell you in the main lobby restroom if you pull down the ceiling tiles there is an old domed roof in there that was painted with a tropical theme, there are a couple of light fixture light still on the ceiling under the drop roof in that bathroom, believed to be from the original 1940 lobby.

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