Best of Boston All-Stars: What’s New at the Brattle Theatre
Welcome to Best of Boston All-Stars, where we revisit longtime Best of Boston favorites to find out what’s new.
A public service announcement for the college students parachuting into our fair city: You’re spending four years in one of the world’s foremost cultural hotbeds, so get ready to make the most of it. In this town, you’ll find no shortage of ways to expand your mind. But one our favorites is the Brattle Theatre, a regular winner of our award for Best Independent Cinema.
For the unfamiliar: For over 60 years, the Brattle has been screening films in Harvard Square, and whether you’re after Silver Screen classics (every year, “Bogie Cult” devotees flock to the theater for its annual Valentine’s Day Casablanca screenings), obscure indie gems, or the weirdest cult flicks to ever crawl out of Tromaville, this is your go-to source for cinema nirvana.
And that bliss comes in addition to “the warm feeling you get from supporting a local nonprofit theater, and the additional warmth provided by the local beer and wine available at the concession stand,” as we pointed out earlier this year. The Brattle went nonprofit in 2000, and since that time, it’s won five Best of Boston awards.
In fact, the Brattle won our award for Best Independent Cinema in the first year that we created the category. And what we wrote 12 years ago still holds true today:
From Here to Eternity was the blockbuster movie of the year when the Brattle Theatre switched from presenting live stage plays to showing films in 1953. Whatever else has changed in Harvard Square, the Brattle remains the locus of earnest first dates and heated debates over the political subtext of John Ford’s westerns. Even at solid middle age, the Brattle has held its own against the nearby Hollywood multiplexes by installing new seats and a new sound system and maintaining its old-school, intelligent programming of classic, international, and avant-garde cinema. And nothing beats a single-admission double feature.
While the theater’s made some upgrades—in 2013, they ran a successful Kickstarter campaign to install a digital projection system—the Brattle is still preserving the past: “We still show a lot of film, and what’s great is that about 40 percent of what we play is still on 35 mm,” says Ned Hinkle, the Brattle’s creative director. “I certainly make an effort—if there is a film print available, I insist that we’re able to play that, as long as it’s not in terrible condition. It is becoming more and more difficult to find film prints, but it’s so rewarding when we get to show The Fifth Element on 35 mm.” He adds: “It’s great that the prints are still out there, and people can still experience those films the way they were meant to be seen.”
To commemorate the theater’s 15th year as a nonprofit, “we’re launching a special campaign to celebrate that, in the fall,” says Hinkle. “There’s a lot coming up.”
On the horizon: Screenings of the new digital restoration of Satyajit Ray’s “Apu Trilogy,” Brothers Quay titles on 35 mm, and, in October, they’re starting a year-long film noir series. “Depending on who you ask, it is the 75th anniversary of film noir,” says Hinkle. “So we’re kicking that off in October with a series of proto-noir movies—films that influenced the style of noir—we’ll be doing some kind of noir-related program on every calendar for the next year.”
Brattle Theatre, 40 Brattle St., Cambridge, 617-876-6837, brattlefilm.org.