Coolidge Corner Theatre to Celebrate New Marquee and Capital Campaign May 10-18


By Susie Davidson

Advocate Correspondent


BROOKLINE – A packed lineup of festivities is planned at Coolidge Corner’s landmark theatre next month, as the new marquee is unveiled and renovation plans are finalized.

The Coolidge Corner Theatre at 290 Harvard St., known through New England for its cultural status, was established in 1933; its modern art deco repute soon became widespread. In the 1940’s and 1950’s, during the popular age of film, the Coolidge was a hotspot for moviegoers, and from the looks of lines for even its midnight shows, that hasn’t changed.


“Today,” says spokeswoman Marianne Lampke, also of the Brattle Theatre in Harvard Square, “the Coolidge stands as a popular showcase for diverse programming. Included in the eclectic line-up is year-round programming featuring the best in independent and foreign art-film releases, children’s variety show matinees, discount senior matinees, local work with visiting filmmakers, and film appreciation workshops.


“Additionally,” she says, “the theatre plays host to many of the leading regional film festivals including The Boston Jewish Film Festival, The Boston International Festival of Women’s Cinema, The New England Film and Video Festival, The Human Rights Film Festival and several others.”


The Richard H. Driehaus Foundation is underwriting the celebration expenses for the first week's kickoff events, reports Executive Director Joe Zina.


"I am excited about the visual significance of the new theatre marquee," he says, and he expresses a desire that it will bring in an even more innovative audience membership who will take advantage of the theatre's diverse offerings. He envisions the Coolidge becoming a veritable cultural center for all.


"All of the financial profit of the past three years," he stresses, "and all the generous donations from foundations, members, and supporters has gone right back into cleaning up the theatre and saving its historic significance.  We are on the final leg of this journey and hope that the excitement of the new marquee will encourage everyone to participate in the Capital Campaign to complete the renovation project. "


Awards garnered by the theatre have included a 2001 special commendation for its midnight shows from the Boston Society of Film Critics, and a recent vote by Boston Magazine as the Best Movie Theatre of 2001.


"The Coolidge Corner Theatre epitomizes what makes Coolidge Corner so special -- an independent, creative-minded, one-of-a-kind entity that contributes to community life and is nourished by its surroundings." says Amy Schectman, Economic Development Officer for the town of Brookline.


Its sponsorship of myriad Judaic-tinged events is longstanding. Klezmer concerts and Judaic films are commonplace at the venue.

And this past Tuesday, musician Henry Sapoznik, radio producer Dave Isay, and the Yiddish Radio All-Star Band presented a tribute to Yiddish radio of the 1930s to the 1950s. In conjunction with the NPR series running through May each Tuesday on All Things Considered, the crew presented a multimedia show of radio clips celebrating forgotten pioneers of Yiddish radio with simultaneous English translations projected onto a screen.


At the Friday, May 10 public unveiling of the new marquee, a Gala show will include a sneak preview of the film The Independent, starring Janeane Garofalo, Jerry Stiller, Anne Meara, and Dr. Jonathan Katz (Janeane Garofalo and Dr. Katz, among others, are scheduled to attend.)


On May 11, a live performance featuring cult filmmaker icon John Waters will accompany the area premiere of his one-man show The World Of Trash. Among the varied special events which will fill the celebratory month is The Sing-A-Long Sound of Music, which returns on May 12 (check for more details).


The Board of Directors and Zina have also announced the final phase of a capital campaign to complete renovations to not-for-profit theatre. Over $900,000 in private donations has been raised to redo the lobby, remodel the 250-seat auditorium known as Movie House II, and add a 45-seat video screening room, which is the first public room of its kind, as well as the art-Deco style marquee.


Also in the works are upgrades to the main theatre, a 600 seat auditorium with an original proscenium, the installation of new seats, a state of the art sound system, performance stage and lighting, and the restoration of the decorative ceiling as well as renovations to all bathrooms the installation of a full access elevator.


The new art deco marquee was designed by the Boston-based company Favermann Design.


"It has been an honor to participate in such a rich cultural legacy," says Mark Favermann, President and CEO of Favermann Design. "The Coolidge Corner Theatre is a community-based national, even international cultural center. Not only is it focused upon film and cinematic history, but it is also highly attuned to developing new audiences, recreating itself as a venue for new media and artists as well as developing better ways to entertain and educate its patrons. We created the new marquee as a sign to mark the Coolidge as a symbol of what this special cultural landmark represents culturally and historically -- now and in the future."