Lost Theaters of Somerville
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Lost Theaters of Somerville
Theaters from Somerville History

Lost Theatres of Somerville is a visual and oral history of neighborhood picture palaces. It looks at the movie-going experience before the explosion of suburbia and television, when theatres were gathering places for not only the family but the entire neighborhood, communal living rooms where news, gossip, and the promotional give-away were all part of the entertainment. It tells the story of the rise and fall of public entertainment, from 1904 when movies first came to Somerville to the present world of multiplexes and malls.

 The Strand
Lost Theatres of Somerville is based on a year-long exhibition hosted by the Somerville Museum in Somerville, Massachusetts from March 2003 to April 2004. The exhibit explored the history of Somerville's fourteen movie theatres and the role of these cultural institutions in defining a sense of place and neighborhood. Oral histories, photographs, and memorabilia, as well as interactive media, brought to life the theatres -- only one of which still survives -- that created a sense of community in this and other working class American cities.

The exhibit was curated by David Guss. A Professor of Anthropology at Tufts University, Guss has gathered what is perhaps the largest collection of the neighborhood movie-going experience in the United States. Included in the original exhibition were archival photographs from theatres and surrounding businesses, posters, ads, dish sets and other give-aways, seats, original stained glass and fixtures, and even a ten foot neon marquee from the Paramount.

The following history of Somerville's Theatres and the Lost Theatres project was published in Marquee, The Journal of the Theatre Historical Society of America 38,1 (2006): "Lost Theatres of Somerville," by David M. Guss (PDF, 5.1 MB)


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