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Meet Me at the Brattle Theatre

Charles Cherney

Passionate about teaching after graduating from Harvard, I ultimately found myself drawn into the world of real estate in Cambridge and Somerville...

Passionate about teaching after graduating from Harvard, I ultimately found myself drawn into the world of real estate in Cambridge and Somerville...

Feb 15 4 minutes read

As noted in Wikipedia, the Brattle Theatre is a repertory movie theater located in Brattle Hall at 40 Brattle Street near Harvard Square in Cambridge, Massachusetts.

The Brattle Theatre is a small movie house with one screen.

It is one of the few remaining movie theaters, if not the only one, to use a rear-projection system; the projector is located behind the screen rather than behind the audience.

The Brattle Theatre mainly screens a mixture of foreign, independent, and classic films, and began showing repertory and foreign films in February 1953.

Despite the rapid disappearance of American art house theaters, the Brattle has managed to maintain a loyal base of moviegoers while remaining independently operated.

In the 1950s, Harvard graduates Cyrus Harvey, Jr. and Bryant Haliday established the Brattle as one of the first art house movie theaters. They revived forgotten American classic films and contemporary foreign films. Many of the foreign films have become classic, such as those by Akira Kurosawa, Ingmar Bergman, Federico Fellini, and François Truffaut.

Starting in the late 1950s, the Brattle started a tradition of screening Humphrey Bogart films during the week of final exams at Harvard University. Films such as Casablanca and The Maltese Falcon were watched again and again and the "Bogie Cult" at the Brattle was formed. It was not uncommon for fans to attend these movies in costume and recite the dialogue word for word. Even to this day, there is always a packed crowd to see a Bogart film.


I discovered the Brattle Theatre as a freshman at Harvard in the mid 1980s. The first film I saw at the Brattle was Powell and Pressburger's I Know Where I am Going (1945). Well, after that memorable screening, I knew where I was going – back to the Brattle!

Indeed, for over 35 years now, I have been going to the Brattle to see films. So many memories. Doctor Zhivago. 007 films. The Decalogue directed by Krzysztof Kieślowski. The Singing Detective. The Philadelphia Story. The Long Goodbye. La Strada. Charlie Chaplin. Harold and Maude. And on and on and on it goes. I've had my world cinema education and adventures at the Brattle. And what a wonderful ride it has been.

As it happens, I worked for sixteen years at a real estate office located behind the Brattle Movie Theatre. I have spent a lot of time on both sides of the Brattle's one screen:)

I will never forget standing in a line that snaked all the way down Brattle Street to see a screening of The Story of Temple Drake (1933), a film based on William Faulkner's novel Sanctuary. Only at the Brattle could this film draw a sellout crowd. Love it!

Brattle movie theatre founders Harvey and Haliday built on the Brattle model to establish Janus Films, which acquired and distributed world cinema and influenced the model used by The Criterion Collection. Yes, I have a subscription to Criterion Channel, and I certainly enjoy streaming world cinema at home. But there is nothing like being at the Brattle, seeing a great film on the big screen with an appreciative audience in the heart of Harvard Square.

Meet me at the Brattle!


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