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  Discover. Preserve. Protect.
Also known as Globe Theatre, Pagoda Theatre

Center Theatre

Boston, MA
690 Washington Street
, Boston, MA 02111 United States
Status: Closed
Screens: Single Screen
Style: French Renaissance
Function: Restaurant, Retail
Seats: 1200
Chain: Unknown
Architect: Arthur Vinal
Firm: Unknown
Center Theatre
Detail view of the former Center's ceiling and proscenium arch
Photo courtesy of Ian Grundy
A former grand theater, the Center is now a shopping mall on the totally altered ground floor.

Upstairs, however, in the former balcony area, with a new floor extended through the proscenium arch, most of the decor survives and provides a rather more lavish Chinese restaurant than most other diners!
Contributed by Ian Grundy


In the 60's and 70's, this was the E.M.LOEWS CENTER THEATRE. Theatre was built as the GLOBE. It was upstairs/downstairs twinned,then the downstairs was left/right split all as the Pagoda Theatre.
posted by richarddziadzio on Dec 26, 2002 at 9:53am
As the Center Theatre it seated 1200 people.
posted by William on Nov 20, 2003 at 2:16pm
Shouldn't the Century and the Center listings be consolidated into one, since they are the same theatre?
posted by Gerald A. DeLuca on Jun 18, 2004 at 9:02am
This was a nudie-film theatre in the late 1950s-early 1960s. In March of 1962 they were showing PARADISIO..."The best 'nudie' movie to date." "In 'TRI-OPTIQUE'---"Broad-minded adults only!" Plus second feature THE CHOPPERS.

I believe the semi-legendary nudist-camp film GARDEN OF EDEN had already played here in the 1950s.
posted by Gerald A. DeLuca on Nov 4, 2004 at 1:14pm
The film Garden of Eden was best known for a US Supreme Court decision in which it was declared that "Nudity is not obscene." It was at that point that nudist film prouction increased and then Russ Meyer's 1959 film "The Immoral Mr Teas", which became a huge hit, helped shape the future of "adult films" (plus an increase in the number of theaters that carried them).
posted by scottfavareille on Nov 4, 2004 at 1:32pm
I have a booklet called "Boston Theatre District: A Walking Tour", published by the Boston Preservation Alliance in 1993. It says:

This was the second theatre called "Globe" in Boston. Designed by Arthur Vinal, it opened in 1903. Its two-story, Romanesque entrance arch was cut into panels with centered light bulbs. The facing was light brick and terra cotta, topped with friezework, cornice, and balustrae. On the latter were eleven bronze posts topped with lamps. The Globe was famous for burlesque in the 1930's with Al Jolson, Eddie Cantor, Fannie Brice, Sophie Tucker, W.C. Fields, Abbott & Costello, and Gypsy Rose Lee among its performers.

By the way, I'm not convinced this theater was ever called "Century". I think it should be listed here as "Center", although in its final years as an Asian cinema it had the name "Pagoda".
posted by Ron Newman on Dec 25, 2004 at 6:33am
The Chinese restaurant now occupying the theatre space is called the "Emperor's Garden" on signs outside, but "Empire Garden" in the phone book. It used to be called "Grand China". Its address is 690 Washington Street.
posted by Ron Newman on Dec 30, 2004 at 7:07pm
As the Pagoda Theatre, this closed in late January, 1995. From a Boston Herald article published February 7, 1995:

"A recent cut from three to two screens, an afternoon-only, five-days-a-week schedule and a lack of new movies hurt the theater, which played mostly Hong Kong action pictures. Despite this genre's crossover success at such venues as the Museum of Fine Arts and Brattle Theater, the Pagoda failed to tap the English-speaking audience. Typically, the outside posters for their offerings included only the Chinese titles, and the Pagoda rarely billed its openings in advance."

When it closed, it was the last remaining Chinese-language cinema in Boston.

posted by Ron Newman on Jan 11, 2005 at 9:07am
According to an unpublished 1968 draft manuscript by Douglas Shand-Tucci entitled The Puritan Muse (available in the Fine Arts room of the Boston Public Library), the Globe opened as a legitimate stage but soon changed to a policy of movies and burlesque. This lasted until 1946. Some time shortly after that, it changed its name to the Center.
posted by Ron Newman on Mar 19, 2005 at 9:03pm
A great 1955 photo of the Center Theatre, described here. The marquee has an E.M. Loew's logo in front, and advertises "Call Northside 777" and "Where the Sidewalk Ends".
posted by Ron Newman on Mar 30, 2005 at 8:28am
Another Center Theater photo, from 1948, described here. A double bill of "The Plainsman" and "The Virginian" with Gary Cooper.

Further down the street you can also see the Stuart Theatre's marquee.
posted by Ron Newman on Mar 30, 2005 at 8:34am
According to Donald C. King's new book The Theatres of Boston: A Stage and Screen History, the Globe opened on September 14, 1903, with a capacity of 1536 seats.

It did not last long as a legitimate stage; by 1912, it was presenting vaudeville and movies for 10, 15, and 25 cents. At the end of 1913, it showed a film called Traffic in Souls, an exposé of white slavery. The following year, it became part of Marcus Loew's vaudeville and movie circuit. NETOCO took it over in December 1928 and extensively remodeled it during the summer of 1929.

By the 1940s, it was a burlesque house.

In 1947, E.M. Loew bought the Globe and renamed it the Center Theatre. The Center's first production was Ben Hecht's A Flag is Born, a stage play about the new state of Israel. In April 1947, it offered Everything on Ice, a copy of the Ice Capades arena show, which flopped. The Center then played a revival of the movie The Thief of Bagdad, which "did tremendous business", according to King. As a result, E.M. Loew turned the Center into a double-feature revival film house.

By the early 1970s, the Center was playing action films and Asian "chop-socky" films, and it eventually changed its name to the Pagoda.
posted by Ron Newman on Jun 18, 2005 at 4:58pm
Here is a 1969 Harvard Crimson article about Peter Bogdanovich's film Targets opening at this theatre, instead of at one of the top houses. The article was written by Tim Hunter, then a student and active in Harvard film societies, who went on to become a Hollywood director of considerable merit with movies like Tex, River's Edge, Sylvester, The Maker and numerous TV films.
posted by Gerald A. DeLuca on Aug 9, 2005 at 2:00am
The Globe Theatre was built by the comedy team of Weber and Fields, but lacking business acumen, they soon lost it. The architect was Arthur Vinal. It had 2 balconies. It became a 2nd-run legit house for awhile; I have a program for "Wizard of Oz" on stage about 1907. Then it was a film and vaude house. In the late-1920s, the 2 balconies were removed and one big balcony constructed, which necessitated extending the facade upward. You can clearly see this upward extension today. There was Burlesque there during WW II. I went into it a few times circa 1955- 1965. It was the E.M. Loew Boston flagship house and was in fairly good condition inside. On the little side-street out back which runs between Beach St. and Kneeland St. you could see the huge black steel scene door and a dressing room wing across the back of the stage. Later, as the Pagoda Theatre, the original Center Th. marquee was kept.
posted by Ron Salters on Dec 4, 2005 at 8:16am
In the mid sixties the Center played a lot of American International pictures. I remember seeing Wild In The Streets and Roger Corman's The Wild Angels here.

My friends and I also saw The T.A.M.I. Show here. For us the most remarkable thing about it was going to a racially mixed event.

The last time I was inside the downstairs floor still had a slope that I attributed to the old movie theater.
posted by hermit on Feb 6, 2006 at 4:47pm
This 1928 map shows at least 11 downtown Boston theatres. West is at the top of this map.

The GLOBE THEATRE is on the east side of Washington Street, one building north of Kneeland Street, at the far left edge of this map. It is next door to the Unique Theatre, later to be renamed Stuart Theatre.
posted by Ron Newman on Feb 25, 2006 at 1:37am
Here's an old postcard image of the Globe Theatre.
posted by Gerald A. DeLuca on Jun 3, 2006 at 2:19am
And just to the left of the Globe, the postcard shows the Theatre Premier. The Premier didn't last very long as a cinema, though its building stands to this day. Does this postcard have a date?
posted by Ron Newman on Jun 3, 2006 at 2:54am
No. I would surmise that it is the end of the first decade of the 1900s. A lot of similar postcards seem to date from that era. I'll cross-post the link to the Premier page.
posted by Gerald A. DeLuca on Jun 3, 2006 at 3:18am
I remember this theatre as a grindhouse in the early 70's.

As a youngster I saw endless horror double features at this place. Going on a Friday night to see a movie at this theater was an adventure, since it was located in Boston's old "Combat Zone", along with the Publix.

Yes, later it played martial arts films as the Pagoda, before it closed as a movie house.
posted by Boy Wonder on Oct 6, 2006 at 10:16am
The MGM Theatre Photograph and Report form for the Center Theatre has an exterior photo dated May 1941. The theatre was named the Globe at that time. When the photo was taken the theatre was presenting Burlesque shows on stage. Fairly large lit signs had been attached to the top of each side of the marquee reading "Glorified Burlesque". The names of various performers were posted on the marquee itself, and from the bottom edges of the marquee were hung elaborate cloth banners reading "Glorified Traveling Burlesque". I don't know if they also presented movies between stage shows; I suspect that they probably did. The Report states that the Globe is on Burlesque; that it does not present MGM films; that it was built before 1910, and is in Fair condition; and has 1,457 seats.
posted by Ron Salters on Dec 8, 2006 at 8:36am
Two pictures of the Century here:-


Interior (larger version of the picture above):-
posted by Ian on Mar 17, 2007 at 12:17pm
Are you sure this was ever called the Century? Everything I've seen says it was the Center.
posted by Ron Newman on Mar 17, 2007 at 2:14pm
The 2 photo links which Ian posted above have the correct names for this theatre: Globe, Center and Pagoda. It was never called the Century Theatre.
posted by Ron Salters on Apr 21, 2007 at 8:33am
To be fair these pictures did originally have the Century name. I was on holiday and did not spend a lot of time researching histories - I was told by people in the restaurant that it was called the Century.

Subsequent (internet) research has discredited that and I changed the titles.

If anyone knows better then please post .... !!!!
posted by Ian on Apr 21, 2007 at 8:43am

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