A few months ago I wrote about the Long Live Circle Cinema project devoted to the now-shuttered Circle Cinemas sitting on the Brighton-Brookline border. You may remember that the project had two goals: (1) assemble an archive of recollections and memorabilia related to the theater and (2) find a new home for the CIRCLE sign. My partner on the project is Susan Legere, a sociologist affiliated with the Boston College community. A lot has happened since my earlier post and it’s time for an update.
We have been delighted to hear from many Circle patrons. Some have shared their memories of the theater on our Long Live Circle Cinema Facebook page; others have posted comments elsewhere in the social space. They have told us about their favorite movies — Mommie Dearest, Field of Dreams, Die Hard, and True Grit among others — and bemoaned the theater’s uncomfortable seats. We heard from several former employees and even tracked down the very first patron of the theater when it opened in 1940.
Susan L. has been videotaping interviews with a handful of individuals who have a connection to the theater — a couple of long-term Brighton residents who patronized the Circle in its heyday, a retired film professor who used to bring his students to the theater, a former manager, and a preservation expert. Ed Jupin of baseNET Productions has graciously volunteered his time, technical resources, and expertise behind the camera.
(By the way, one piece of theater history still eludes us. We know that Hollywood legend Debbie Reynolds visited the theater in 1966 to promote The Singing Nun. I read somewhere that the band from St. Thomas Aquinas High School in Jamaica Plain was on hand for the premiere and we would love to talk to someone who was there — or to Debbie Reynolds herself. Can anyone help us get in touch?)
Susan L. and I (“the two Susans”) have had our 15 minutes of fame as well — appearing in the Boston Globe and the Brookline TAB, and on Boston’s Neighborhood Network News. Dirty Old Boston, the widely read Facebook page and Boston Globe blog, has featured our project on several occasions (Thanks, Jim!) and we were included in the fall newsletter of the Society for Commercial Archeology. Last week a Boston University journalism student interviewed us for a class project.
Unfortunately, despite the growing interest in our project, the fate of the mid-century CIRCLE sign overlooking the Chestnut Hill Reservoir is still up in the air. The site is slated for a new development project, but the review and approval process has seemingly stalled. While several parties have expressed interest in saving the sign — the project developer, a near-by property owner, and a sign museum among them — no one has made a formal commitment. We know that the community supports our efforts and we are hopeful that spreading the word will help create more interest in our project.
How can you help? For starters, please like our Long Live Circle Cinema page on Facebook to stay in touch. Second, if you can help us share our story through your organization’s publications or programs, we would love to talk to you. And, finally, if you want to join us in this effort to preserve memories of the theater and the CIRCLE sign itself, please get in touch through this blog, our Facebook page, or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
(And, by the way, if you’re a fan of classic neon signs, I invite you to visit my Etsy shop.)