Playhouse to reopen as theater for foreign films

By D.C. Denison
Boston Globe
September 18, 2009

Forget the Sundance Channel. Those who love watching independent and foreign films on a big screen in a real movie house are going to have a new venue right in Boston’s Theatre District.

More than 10 years after the last movie was shown at what is now the Stuart Street Playhouse, David Bramante, operator of the West Newton Cinema and the Belmont Studio Cinema, has signed an operating agreement to reopen the facility as a movie theater on Oct. 9.

Bramante is planning to program the theater, owned by the Boston real estate developer JPA Corp., with independent and foreign films, a similar approach to the one at West Newton Cinema. The Playhouse, at the Radisson Hotel Boston at the corner of Charles Street South and Stuart Street, has in recent years been hosting live theater and other performances.

But many moviegoers remember it as the Sack Cinema 57, which opened in the early 1970s and showed mainstream movies until 1996, when it was converted to a live venue. Although the theater was built as a two-screen cinema, it will reopen as a single-screen theater with 435 seats.

Most recently, the Playhouse has been operating under the leadership of Nick Paleologos, who was the producing director of the Playhouse from 2000 until June 2009. There, he staged live productions like “Jacques Brel is Alive and Well and Living in Paris’’ and “Forever Plaid.’’ Paleologos, who currently serves as executive director of the Massachusetts Film Office, said he has “mixed emotions’’ about the transition.

“On the one hand, you hate to see a beautiful live theater being taken off the market,’’ he said. “But on the other, it’s great to see a classic art house cinema returning to downtown Boston.’’

Bramante has been courting the owners of the Stuart Street facility for years, he said, regularly floating the idea of converting it into a movie house for non-mainstream films. A few months ago, after the theater went dark for the summer, Bramante was able to work out a deal.

The name of the theater will remain the Stuart Street Playhouse.

Despite competition from cable television, DVDs, and the Internet, Bramante said, there is a market for a downtown showcase for new independent and foreign films.

“There’s nothing like it in the city,’’ he said. “Going out to a good movie, at $10 a ticket, is still a great entertainment value.’’

D.C. Denison can be reached at

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