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The CIRCLE Cinemas sign is worth saving — and how you can help

I’ve been writing about the historic sign on top of the CIRCLE Cinemas for almost a year now, and a significant deadline for the future of the sign is looming this month. As many of you know, the theater property is the subject of a redevelopment project that will span both Brookline and Boston. A hotel is proposed for the Brookline side of the property, with housing slated for the Boston side. The Boston Redevelopment Authority is managing the city’s side of the equation, and the deadline for public comments on the project is Friday, April 11.

Photo of CIRCLE Cinema sign

You can help make sure this sign finds a new home.

Here’s how you can help: Submit a comment to the Boston Redevelopment Authority urging the developers to incorporate the mid-century CIRCLE sign into the new development. Maybe it should go on the roof; maybe there’s another way to display the sign. I don’t know the best way to do it, and I’m sure the answer will depend on a combination of design considerations, feasibility, and money.  The key is getting the city and the developer to make a commitment to finding a new home and a new life for the sign that has reigned over Cleveland Circle since 1940.

If you need some inspiration, here are five things that you might not have known about the theater and its storied past:

  • The Circle Theatre first opened as a single-screen theater in 1940 and was billed as “Boston’s Finest Suburban Theatre.”
  • The first feature to play at the theater was Lucky Partners with Ronald Colman and Ginger Rogers.
  • The original theater was designed by the architecture firm of Krokyn & Browne, which also designed the West Newton Cinema and Mattapan’s Oriental Theater.
  • The theater was completely redesigned in the mid-1960s by prominent architect William Riseman.  The theater shared its so-called “brutalist” style with Boston City Hall.
  • The Circle screened exclusive premieres throughout its history and hosted Hollywood luminaries such as Debbie Reynolds who came to town in 1966 to promote The Singing Nun and to attend a fundraiser for the Jimmy Fund.

So why save the sign? Saving, restoring, and relocating the sign would benefit the Cleveland Circle neighborhood by creating a unique landmark and a sense of place.  Much like the CITGO sign has come to symbolize Kenmore Square and the City of Boston, the C-I-R-C-L-E sign could create a gateway to the community that makes Cleveland Circle instantly recognizable to residents and visitors alike.

Finally, the iconic sign on top of the Circle Cinemas is an important part of our commercial landscape, a landscape that shrinks a little bit every day.  As many long-term Allston-Brighton residents remember, we already lost the Coca-Cola sign which used to overlook Soldiers Field Road where the Doubletree Hotel is today.  We don’t want to lose another piece of our history.

Please help save the CIRCLE sign by letting the BRA know what the sign and the theater meant to the community.  You can submit comments using the BRA’s online form at this link.

And, if you haven’t already done so, please visit the Long Live Circle Cinema Facebook page and take a few minutes to share your memories of the theater.

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