Comments from IanJudge

Showing 76 - 100 of 247 comments

IanJudge commented about AMC Boston Common 19 on May 11, 2007 at 2:51 pm

This seems to be the case with many AMC theaters in the Boston area.

I have not heard good things about their operations from many people, from either a customer standpoint or from former/current staff. AMC apparently has many customer service related policies that staff must memorize, etc., but what good is a silly across-the-board policy like that when you are not going to maintain the buildings or pay for a decent projectionist to ensure the picture quality is good?

If you are charging top dollar for movies downtown like AMC, the place should be clean and staffed, and the picture should be in focus, in frame, and not scratched. If theaters just focused on these basic functions, it would make a lot more patrons happy than rote memorization of customer service catchphrases.

IanJudge commented about Revere Theatre on Mar 11, 2007 at 12:14 pm


The only thing I can think of is that back then Revere Beach was such a destination for out-of-towners and folks from other Boston neighborhoods, that the Boulevard could easily draw a completely seperate crowd, the way some mega-resorts have their own multiplex cinemas these days – merely for guests.

IanJudge commented about Theater operational questions on Feb 21, 2007 at 11:22 pm

I also manage theaters and I cannot stand pre-bagged popcorn. It may make for an easier and faster transaction, but customers like seeing that popcorn comes from a popper – not that it has the potential to sit in a bag all day. I can’t even believe that some theaters do not pop their corn in the lobby – there is nothing like that smell and the sound of if popping to make people buy!

But it all depends on your priorities. To me, it comes down to staffing. If you want your lines to move, you need more people selling. It is that simple. You may not want to have that many staff on, but you also need to utilize effective scheduling – use your managers and ushers to help at busy times. Do you just want to sell people whatever stuff is cheapest/easiest, or do you want them to have a great experience and come back again?

IanJudge commented about RKO Keith's Theatre on Jan 16, 2007 at 12:11 pm

To answer Jeffrey’s question about the parts that look like windows at the rear of the stage; to me they look like steam radiators, which were commonly mounted to stagehouse walls.

IanJudge commented about Beloved Member Jim Rankin Passes Away on Jan 9, 2007 at 1:27 pm

Perhaps the organizers of this website could consider a annual or semi-annual award named for the greatly knowledgeable Mr. Rankin – some kind of essay or research contest, maybe? It would have to be held to high standards, since Jim was as eloquent as he was informative.

IanJudge commented about Somerville Theatre on Nov 28, 2006 at 8:27 am


I would not take this to signify much – many theaters do this on weekdays to save on payroll etc., afterall, not many people go to the movies after 9pm on weeknights. Our Capitol Theatre has an abbreviated schedule Mon-Thu, and if Somerville didn’t stay open for events, we’d probably have one there too.

IanJudge commented about Somerville Theatre on Nov 27, 2006 at 11:14 am

Rumor is that Assembly will close after New Years.

At Somerville (Davis Sq.) we are being allowed to play day-and-date on some titles with the Harvard Sq. by a couple of distributors, but by no means all of the studios; however, with Assembly closing, it could provide a few more opportunities to do so. Fresh Pond still has clearance over the Somerville for most mainstream pictures, so it seems likely that certain pictures might open at Harvard & Davis, while others at Fresh Pond only (for example, ‘Blood Diamond’ is opening at Somerville and Harvard Square, but something a little more ‘general audience’ like ‘We Are Marshall’ will probably go to Fresh Pond.)

IanJudge commented about 'Death of a President' struggles to find exhibitor support on Oct 31, 2006 at 7:15 pm

It did very weak business and got mixed reviews, so I know I will not be booking it. It seldom has to do with taste and is usually about money!

Any theater or chain certainly has the right to not play any movie, but I’ll agree that Regal, AMC, etc are grandstanding a little here – they certainly play plenty of objectionable material like slasher/horror films that could inspire violence against everyday people. One could make the argument that this film might inspire a threat against a public figure (who is of course already subject to countless threats) but I think it comes down to the fact that no chain is going to take a chance on a picture that isn’t going to make money for them. These chains do much of their business with middle america, a group that might object to such a controversial topic, especially during wartime.

You or I may or may not agree with this personally, but just as we choose to purchase certain goods based on our beliefs/opinions, the theaters do the same.

IanJudge commented about Somerville Theatre on Oct 19, 2006 at 1:24 am

With Ken MacLeod’s permission, here I share the stories he emailed me about working at Somerville back in the day:

“I have many memories of the Somerville Theatre. I started as an usher when in highschool (SHS) working for Bob and Arthur Viano. I was always interested in projection and spent my free time learning the trade with then projectionist Pete Peterson. Received my state license and worked all of the Viano theatres. I remember the Teele Sq Theatre, I had to climb a ladder on the back wall to get up to the booth. Ran 3-D movies at the Somerville & helped Arthur and Bob Viano remove the old cloth screen at the back of the stage and install the new screen for 3-D and Cinemascope film in the early mid 50’s.

Bob and Arthur’s dad, “Mr. Viano” was a very business like person. We (employees) were afraid of him. When we saw him coming, those of us that could hide, would do just that. Arthur and Bob were great to work for. I was a sophomore in HS when Arthur hired me as an usher. Usually 2 ushers on weekends and one thru the week, except on Tuesdays when we would change the marquee for the new show starting Wednesday. There were two changes per week. Sunday thru Tuesday, then the second show Wednesday thru Saturday. Two shows daily, one at 1:45 PM and the second at 7:45 PM. Sunday was continuous with three shows starting at 1 PM. All shows were double feature with a
newsreel at the start.

On Sundays at about 6 PM, there would be a 15 minute intermission so the ushers could clean all the popcorn boxes from the stage in front of the screen. At that time, the popcorn boxes were cardboard and they sailed very well.

The usher’s room was located on the balcony entrance between the two stairways going up to the balcony seats. We had uniforms, (dark red sport coats, well worn….). The marquee letters were also kept in the ushers room.

On the weekends I would spend most of my time in the men’s restroom! The toilets (1) and urinals (2) would always overflow and cause a flood. At that time there were over 1100 seats in the theatre. You can imagine the line to the men’s room when the house was full. (Yes, we had full houses at times depending on the film shown). Almost everyone smoked and at intermission time the lobby and restrooms were filled with smoke.

Music for intermission was played thru the sound system with 78 RPM records up in the projection booth. Intermission was scheduled for three minutes, but with a good size house, it could go 10 or 15 minutes. It just depended on how many people were at the candy counter spending

One of the duties of the usher was to turn down the house lights and open the curtain at the beginning of the show. The curtain was manual operation at that time. It took practice to open the curtain smoothly. The stage and main house lights were on dimmers. Before the show would
start, I would dim the house lights so the stage footlights would illuminate the main curtain. Then I
would signal the projection booth operator (George “Pete” Peterson) to start the show. We had a buzzer system from back stage up to the booth. When the newsreel came on, I would slowly dim the stage footlights then open the curtain. What a great feeling that was! Ha ha! But It did look good to the audience.

The usher would stand at the back of the auditorium with his flash light in hand. It was my duty to
know were the empty seats were and escort the theatre guests down the aisle to their seats.
I did all of that for 0.62 cents per hour. Not bad money at that time. Popcorn was 10 cents/box
and 5 cents/per bag. Admission was 25 cents in the afternoon and 50 cents at night.

There is something about the theatre atmosphere that once you have worked in one, it’s very hard or really, impossible to forget. I think a lot of it has to do with the fresh popcorn. I remember at the Somerville, when I would be working up in the booth, when a new batch of popcorn was popping, I could smell it comming through the booth port holes from the auditorium. When the balcony was open and I smelled the popcorn popping, I would always see some patrons get up, go down stairs, and come back with popcorn in their hands. It’s still the same for me today. When we go to the
theatre, before we get to the ticket office I smell the fresh popcorn.

The box office attendant and candy girl were there for a long time. The lady in the box office was Mrs. MacGoff and the candy girl was her daughter Ruth. Both Ruth and her mother worked the box office and also the candy counter. Ruth was in High School at the time and also worked there during her college days. I was in Boston on business back in 1975 and visited the theatre. Mrs. MacGoff was still there working the candy counter and her husband, who was retired, was working the box office. I also visited the projection booth and it looked the same as it did when I left in early 60’s

Another duty of the ushers, which I had forgotten to mention, was as follows: Bob or Arthur Viano
would drive me to another theatre (usually the Ball Square Theatre) and give me admission money.
He would park around the corner and wait for me. I would purchase a ticket, enter the
theatre, count the number of movie patrons in the theatre, wait about 10 minutes, then leave.
I would then report back to Arthur or Bob with the numbers. I guess other theatre managers probably did the same thing checking on their competition.

The lobby area wasn’t too bad during intermission with a large house. Patrons were allowed to leave the theatre during the intermission. They were given a re-entry pass for re-admission. A different color pass was used for each day. It worked out very well."

Special thanks again to Ken for giving all of us, especially myself & our current staff, a glimpse into the past.

IanJudge commented about Circle Cinemas on Oct 7, 2006 at 9:54 am

FYI, Viacom and its subsidiaries like Paramount, plus CBS are both owned by… National Amusements, not the other way around.

IanJudge commented about Cast Aluminum 12" Marquee Letters for sale on Oct 2, 2006 at 6:55 am

Cripes, we’ve a huge pile of these letters in the basement of my theater. Looks like it’s time to sell them if they fetch that much!

IanJudge commented about AMC Loews Harvard Square 5 on Sep 26, 2006 at 11:22 pm

I have never heard that about the bums – all the roof access used to be locked, even the fire escapes (exit only situation). Watch out for the guy with the one fake leg – we used to call him the “Mad Crapper” for obvious reasons. In the summers he used to sleep on the church steps across the street. There is also a middle-aged african american guy, quite tall, who is known to most theater managers in the area, who crawls around the floors of the theaters while movies are playing and tries to steal purses, wallets, etc. He can be dangerous, and once threw a trash barrel clear across the lobby of the Harvard Square Theatre. Coolidge Corner managers and my managers at Davis Square are all aware of this guys shenanigans. He likes to sneak in exit doors primarily.

What fun this business can be sometimes, eh?

The dressing rooms at Harvard Sq. are cool too – we used to have a great punching bag down there for when staff needed stress relief!

I did indeed manage Boston Common – opened the place. What a monster. But working at Loews was a good learning experience – I learned what I liked and didn’t like about their operations and priorities, and continue to value the many personal and professional connections I made working for them. I also managed Assembly Square for a while… scary in its own way!

Glad the new management likes Trish. She is a doll, and has some incredible stories, especially about the music scene in Boston in the 70’s.

Good luck with the theater. I’m up the road at the independent Somerville Theatre if you are ever in the area; stop in sometime.

IanJudge commented about AMC Loews Harvard Square 5 on Sep 26, 2006 at 10:56 pm

Hi Mike,

I’ve not found very many photos from the old days. You can get a feel for what it looked like by poking your head above the ceiling tiles in theaters 1,2, or 3. All the old decor is still up there. You’ll need a tall ladder, a flashlight, and a long pole to see above the tiles in #1!

Up on the roof, you can climb into the old fly-loft through a door to the stagehouse (you’ll find yourself above the ceiling of number 5.

When I managed the place, I spent many hours poking around everywhere I could. It is an interesting building!

Take good care of Trish, who has worked in various Boston theaters since she was 15, and also Linda, the lady who runs the little jewelry shop that rents from the theater!


IanJudge commented about How to increase revenue question.... on Sep 25, 2006 at 9:06 am

If the neighborhood is trendy, consider selling premium coffee and teas, and then have that available in the daytime with a seating area in the storefront area. Make it movie themed, and perhaps arrange with a local bakery to sell quality snacks.

Or, perhaps if your town/city is open minded, you could have a small cocktail bar.

As for the afternoons, I would contact your local CofC and see if they know of any local places that need meeting space – you could
always rent out the auditorium.

IanJudge commented about Chuck Norris Film Festival in Somerville on Sep 14, 2006 at 1:32 pm

To answer Ron’s query, no, because of renovations they are not in the Main Theater, as the new movie screen for there is still on backorder, and our new sound system is not in place yet.

I wholeheartedly agree that film preservation is currently a sad state of affairs given the money at studios and the vulnerability of film stock.

One of the reasons we did this Chuck Norris fest is because Boston used to be a real blue collar town, and now there is a lot of pretension about everything in the area. So we figured if art films get retrospectives, why not something a little more down to earth?

Plus, we’ve tried some older/classic revivals that did little business, but found that 80’s flicks and cheesy cult movies still manage to draw crowds. Throw in Chuck Norris' sudden status as a pseudo-cult internet personality amongst younger folks (the ‘chuck norris facts’ website for example), and we figured it would be a draw for the area residents.

And for jmorong and I there is also the fact that as a generation, these films were how we spent our Saturdays at the cinema, or what was always on our local UHF stations on rainy afternoons.

I wonder if digital will mean programming special stuff will be easier. I personally believe it will never look as good as film, no matter if it is Casablanca or Delta Force!

Ian Judge
Somerville Theatre

IanJudge commented about Somerville Theatre on Aug 29, 2006 at 2:23 pm

Yes, the basement bowling alley space was what the MBTA leased. There were three lanes; they closed in the 60’s as much as I can tell. The lanes were on the Dover street side, running back to front. Under the storefront on the corner (where the Someday was until this month) was a billiards hall, and under the theater lobby was a cafe that also served as a speakeasy during prohibition. The basement also contained bathrooms for visitors and of course dressing rooms for the theater space.

Also, briefly in the 30’s the bowling alleys were used to set up an indoor mini-golf course (open till 1:30am each night!).

Today, theaters 2 and 3 occupy the bowling alley space (as well as the first floor along Dover St.) and the old billiards hall is storage space for the storefront on the corner. The old speakeasy/cafe space was divided into a storeroom for the theater and offices for the Someday cafe (though with the change of tenants, that space reverts to the theater).

IanJudge commented about Somerville Theatre on Aug 29, 2006 at 2:10 pm


The jeweller was where the original Someday was. It became the Yarn Shop, then the hair place, then a little realtor’s office, then the Someday, and finally was absorbed into the lobby.` The gun club was in the upper stories, I’m not sure where.

I can’t remember what was on the corner in the early 80’s, but the Discount Pharmacy went in around 1985.

The greek club used the former Crystal Ballroom that was on the second floor (where theaters 4 and 5 are today). There was also a dentists office and a small dance studio there.

The basement was leased to the MBTA for the duration of the T project. They used it to store supplies.

The third floor was built as office space and with a giant ‘council chamber’, a room with only ceiling lights and no side windows that was used for a masonic/K of C kind of organization. This was all turned into office space in the late 1920’s and then into 10 studio apartments in the 60’s.

Ron – I’ll gladly chat about the private club sometime.
David – if you ever want to see your old place, stop in the theater and ask for me. If I am there, I’ll show you around.


IanJudge commented about Somerville Theatre on Aug 29, 2006 at 1:32 pm


The apartments on the third floor were gradually de-tenanted (as each tenant left, no new tenant was sought) when the Fraimans bought the building in 1984, with the intention of turning the space back into offices – it just took them 10 years to get around to doing it.

The space where your bedroom used to be is now a meeting area and lounge for an advertising agency. It also serves as the ‘filmmakers lounge’ during the annual Independent Film Festival.

Some of the other tenants of the building in the early 80’s were a jeweller, a gun-and-rod club, and a rather notorious private club at the corner of Dover and Meacham.

IanJudge commented about Drive-ins to go digital? on Jul 2, 2006 at 7:23 pm

Peter is 100% correct on all counts. And I agree with njmoviefan – properly projected 35mm film (with a quality print) is far superior to digital projection. Of course, you have to have properly trained projectionists who care and well-maintained eqiupment. Many chains today are careless about who starts the show and threads up the machine, and some of the prints today are spit out so fast by the studios that the actual physical quality of prints are just not what they used to be. As for the equipment, well most teenagers in the booth don’t know how to focus a bulb or fine tune the projector regularly like an experienced projectionist, so they don’t even notice the picture is not quite what it could be.

The sad reality is that eventually digital will be forced upon theaters, because that is what the studios want – and it’s their party.

IanJudge commented about Somerville Theatre on Jun 9, 2006 at 11:27 pm

Jim, thanks for the kind words! I really appreciate your patronage. We have
tried so hard to improve our presentation & cleanliness, though sometimes our
prints arrived already scratched due to the second-run status we hold (if they
are really damaged, we do order new prints, but this can take a few days,
especially over a weekend.)


Yes, the main hall will be closed for apx. 8 weeks. We will be repainting the
entire room, something not done since 1932. We are following paint and color
guidelines from a 1989 historical analysis of the building that thankfully
lists the proper colors to be used.

The stagehouse will be renovated, including new fire suppresion systems, new
rigging, new drapes and a new screen. Upgrades to the sound system for movies
are also planned.

The theater that emerges in the fall will look better than it has in decades,
and will be better suited to host live shows. We anticipate more dance shows
and perhaps more legitimate theater, as the new stage will be deeper and wider.

This is a huge commitment on the part of the theater owners, and one more step
towards my goal of having the theater completely overhauled by the 100th
anniversary in 2014.

Also, on a side note, Warner Brothers has agreed to let us play “The Lake House"
on June 16th, a rare first-run presentation day-and-date with the Harvard Square
Theatre (except our admission price will remain its usual $6.50, far less than
the Harvard Square). Hopefully, this will be something Warner’s let’s us do in
the future.

IanJudge commented about Loew's Paradise Theatre on May 31, 2006 at 5:51 pm

Just because a show grosses $300k doesn’t mean the theater is keeping all, or even a large part of that money… for example the theater I manage grossed over $1,000,000 in two nights when we hosted a Bruce Springsteen concert; however the rent we collected was more in the $6,000 range! On the whole, we collect around 10% of what a concert grosses, though each show is structured differently. Assuming the Paradise is doing something similar (which it may or may not) 10% of 300K is still decent money – but these old buildings, no matter how well they are renovated, are expensive to heat, air condition, staff, etc. Of course they do make money on food and beverage sales too.

I hope that events like the MTV-sponsored one help them make a name for the place. Glad to know no matter who runs it, the theater is now protected from destruction or alteration.

IanJudge commented about Circle Cinemas on Apr 25, 2006 at 11:44 am

It’s funny to me you mention that dwodeyla, because this past weekend at my theater (Somerville) we hosted the Independent Film Festival of Boston, and several of their big shows were in our 900 seat house. The lines stretched around the entirety of three sides of the building for certain screenings, including two that filled the big house to near-capacity. I remember thinking “How are we going to seat this many people in time?” and yet, once it got moving, I would say that within 10 minutes, about 700 people had taken their seats. Then I thought “Imagine doing this three or four times a day every weekend like in the old days!”.

There is truly nothing like seeing a movie with over 500-1000 people in the room – it is (to me) part of what makes going to ‘the show’ fun. It is too bad more multiplex theaters do not have one or two ‘grand/main’ theaters to showcase certain films in that epic way of old. Maybe not every movie needs the huge screen and surround sound or even a screen curtain, particularly ‘small’ films, but to see a deserving film in such a manner would impress even the most non-interested moviegoer.

IanJudge commented about Coolidge Theatre on Mar 29, 2006 at 9:45 am

Also, should be added that this was an E.M. Loew house.

IanJudge commented about Coolidge Theatre on Mar 29, 2006 at 9:44 am

There is currently a 7-11 on this site – the theater is long gone.

IanJudge commented about Central Theatre on Mar 4, 2006 at 9:50 am

Warren – I can tell you that David Guss is himself the man resposible for how incredible the website is – you should have seen the exhibit! It was fascinating.