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The Somerville Theatre – Davis Square’s Historic Entertainment Hub! Guest Post by Erin Amar

Posted on: September 12, 2017

Mod Betty is happy to share with you one of her fave local spots when she’s back up at home in Mass. Not only did she used to see all sorts of cool films and live shows there, she’s happy to learn that the Museum of Bad Art is currently housed there! Since she’s not in that area a lot lately she asked her pal Erin to pen a few words about this historic venue. If you’re ever in the Davis Square area, please check it out! 

Opening its doors in 1914, the Somerville Theatre is one of the longest continually operated film and performance venues in America.

somerville theatre main auditorium - courtesy of the somerville theatre

photo courtesy of the Somerville Theatre

Built by Joseph Hobbs, the Theatre was originally constructed with stage shows and vaudeville in mind, with a tip of the hat to that newcomer – motion pictures! Designed by Funk & Wilcox of Boston, the Theatre was only one of the Hobbs Building’s original attractions which included a basement café, bowling alley, billiards hall, ten ground floor storefronts and the Hobbs Crystal Ballroom.

Somerville_ticket stub 1932 - courtesy of the Somerville Theatre

photo courtesy of the Somerville Theatre

The Somerville immediately attracted the biggest stars to its stage, including Tallulah Bankhead, Ray Bolger and even movie director / musical choreographer Busby Berkeley. It continued as a live-performance destination until the depression caused the Theatre to become a film-only venue 1932, the same year it was updated in Art Deco style.

somerville theatre post card - courtesy of the somerville theatre

photo courtesy of the Somerville Theatre

In 1982, the Theatre was leased to Garen Daly who redirected programming to make it a repertory moviehouse, showing independent and off the wall films and returning live concerts to the Theatre’s main stage.

In 1990, the Fraiman family (now Frame One Theatres) assumed operation of the Somerville, and started a series of long-overdue renovations while carefully ensuring preservation of the Theatre’s original architectural integrity.

Somerville Theatre Somerville MA

Changes over the following decades would include the installation of 4 additional adjacent cinemas, an elevator, new bathrooms, renovated seating for the 876-seat main theater and a new marquee. Also added was installation of a Dolby Digital Sound system – including 24 surround speakers in the original auditorium – and a revamped projection booth containing two Norelco DP-70 projectors, enabling the Somerville to be one of the few movie theaters in New England able to run 70mm film.

somerville theatre U2 - courtesy of the Somerville Theatre

photo courtesy of the Somerville Theatre

Now a destination for modern performers, the Somerville’s stage in recent years has hosted live performances from U2, Bruce Springsteen, Louis CK and the holiday burlesque “The Slutcracker”; and film events including “Independent Film Festival Boston”, “The Boston Sci-Fi Film Festival” and since 2016 – New England’s only annual “70mm & Widescreen Film Festival”.

Blending the best of the modern day and the past, the Somerville melds the grandeur of a traditional movie house with a high-quality sound and visual experience at one of the most reasonable ticket-prices in the area. For those who love to nosh, the Theatre offers traditional concessions plus a small assortment of Richardson’s Ice Cream flavors, and popcorn popped on site with real butter, as well as beer and wine selections which include offerings from local microbreweries.