Strand Theatre – Boston, MA

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View of the auditorium from the balcony.

The Strand Theatre in the Dorchester neighborhood of Boston, Massachusetts, originally opened on November 11, 1918, the same day that the news of the Armistice, ending World War I, reached Boston. The Boston-based architectural firm of Funk & Wilcox, the same firm that designed the nearby Franklin Park Theatre and the Cabot Theatre in Beverly, MA, designed it. It was one of the first theaters in Massachusetts designed with motion pictures in mind. The Strand also had a $75,000 Hope-Jones Theatre Organ, one of the first of its kind in Massachusetts.

A portion of the lobby was restored to show what the theater could look like after a full restoration.

Early advertisements for the Strand called it “New England’s Most Beautiful Theatre” and “Dorchester’s New Million Dollar Photoplay Palace.” The 2,200 seat Strand opened with a silent film double feature of “Queen of the Sea” starring Annette Kellerman and“Out of a Clear Sky” starring Marguerite Clark. There was also a performance by “Songstress DeLuxe” Emile Earle. Hundreds of people showed up to the Strand’s opening celebration in part to celebrate the theater but also the signing of the armistice. Many celebrities performed at the Strand over the years, including Fred Allen, Fanny Brice, Milton Berle, Jack Benny, Jerry Lewis, Duke Ellington, and Alfred Hitchcock.

Like many single-screen theaters of its day, the Strand’s audience declined, and the theater closed in 1969. In 1979, the City of Boston took ownership of the theater, and the Strand reopened. It was managed by the M. Harriet McCormack Center for the Arts (MHMCA), who signed a 25-year lease for $1 a year. During this time, some big names performed at the theater – Joe Perry, B.B. King, Tracy Chapman, Public Enemy, Phish, and LL Cool J, just to name a few. MHMCA operated the theater until 2003, when the City declined to renew their lease because of allegations of mismanagement.

The right organ chamber and box seats were given a sample restoration as well.

The City of Boston is currently searching for a new operator of the Strand.




5 thoughts on “Strand Theatre – Boston, MA

  1. It looks almost like the organ might still be there, judging from what appears to be swell shades in the close-up of the left organ grille.  True or not? Ralph Daniel

    • The Organ is gone just like the alot of the finner things. I worked there as a teenager and my dad was president of the board in the 80s. My dad Retired from working in the mid 90s but he enjoyed being part of a great project like bringing her back to viable working venue. John Longo. Josephine Bifano. Bella McKenna and several others were the force moving the Strand Theater forward. That started early 70s. Love the Strand Theater was Married there. Someone else claim that. Josephine because I worked there as a teenager let me rent it for 500 dollars as long as I cleaned up after. Alot of good people put their heart and labor into that place. Good luck moving to.

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  3. Anthony DeSantis ran movies in the Strand Theater until 1969. He has now passed away. I remember exploring the massive theater and back stage as a 6 and 7 year old. I never found an organ but I remember how huge it was. I remember some of the attributes like the box seats, the arch over the stage, and the circular trim on the ceiling. I used to wonder how anyone ever put that stuff up there. I remember the carbon arc projectors still used in the 60s. The balcony stairs were scary to me at that age because they seemed to be so steep. Of course everything looked bigger at that age. It only makes sense that the City took it over. Even at an early age, I knew it was a landmark of an ancient era. No ordinary individual would be able to maintain such a structure.

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