Timeline Of Brattle History

Also see the article "100 Years of the Brattle," written by John Engstrom.

Date Brattle Event Film History Film Awards
1871 The Cambridge Social Union (CSU), one of many such groups formed after the Civil War, is founded to provide a free reading room and library and "means of social and intellectual improvement".
1889 CSU purchases 120-lineal-foot lot on Brattle Street for $9,000. The purchase price includes the ancient Brattle House, which today houses the Cambridge Center for Adult Education. The architectural firm of Longfellow, Alden & Harlow is retained to design Brattle Hall for literary, musical, and dramatic entertainments. Edison Labs perfect the Kinetescope, the first motion picture film viewer.
1890 On January 27th Brattle Hall officially opens. Groucho Marx born
1891 In January, the Cambridge Social Dramatic Club (CSDC) is formed, primarily by members of the then defunct Cambridge Dramatic Club, for the purpose of giving Saturday night performances at Brattle Hall. CSDC remains a tenant at Brattle Hall for 40 years. Other tenants during the first five decades include a police gymnasium and a ballet school. The Brattle is also the site of social dances known as "Brattle Halls." Edison applies for a patent for his Kinetoscope. He is convinced it will not turn a profit.
1899 The theatre stage is enlarged. Humphrey Bogart and Alfred Hitchcock born
1912 The Boston subway, which opened the previous year, is expanded to connect Boston to Cambridge. The oldest surviving American motion picture, a version of Shakespeare's Richard III, is produced.
1928 The Harvard Dramatic Club's production of Michael Gold's political drama Fiesta premieres at the Brattle, and is banned by Cambridge Mayor Nichols, who terms it "extremely objectionable." This is the first of the Brattle's historic fights for artistic freedom. Dziga Vertov shoots Man with a Movie Camera. Academy Award - Best Picture: The Broadway Melody
1929 The Stock Market crashes. People's interest in live theater fades when faced with the monetary challenges of the day. The first Academy Awards, for films produced in 1927, are finally awarded. Academy Award - Best Picture: All Quiet on the Western Front
1938 CSU ends its role as a social agency, and the Cambridge Center for Adult Education (CCAE) is formed to take its place. Sergei Eisenstein's historical epic, Ivan the Terrible, is released in Russia.

The American government begins a series of anti-monopoly suits that will lead to the collapse of the studio system.

Academy Award - Best Picture: You Can't Take it with You
1942 Paul Robeson presents the American premiere of his famous role as Othello in the Margaret Webster production, also starring Uta Hagen and Jose Ferrer. Casablanca is released. Academy Award - Best Picture: Mrs. Miniver
1944 Franklin Trask keeps theatre alive at the Brattle in the post-WWII years and opens an acting school. Lauren Bacall, 19 at the time of shooting, makes her screen debut and delivers her famous "whistle" line in To Have and To Have Not. Academy Award - Best Picture: Going My Way
1946 Air Force veteran, actor, and Harvard undergraduate Jerome Kilty forms the Harvard Veterans' Theatre Workshop (VTW), many of whose members go on to help found the Brattle Theatre Company. French critics define and name the genre of film noir after seeing American movies for the first time since 1940. Academy Award - Best Picture: The Best Years of Our Lives

Cannes - Grand Prize / Palm d'Or: La Bataille du Rail, Symphonie Pastorale, The Lost Weekend, Brief Encounter, Open City, Maria Candelaria, and The Last Chance

1948 CCAE sells Brattle Hall to Thayer Frye Hersey and the VTW for $80,000.That summer VTW opens its first summer stock season at the Brattle under the name Cambridge Summer Playhouse. Among the first productions is a revival of Saint Joan. In the fall, the Brattle Theatre Company (BTC) opens its first season. Over the course of the next four years, this plucky group will earns a national reputation for its 64 ensemble productions. Its all-time box office hits are Billy Budd, Troilus and Croesida, Henry IV, and Six Characters in Search of an Author. The beginning of the end for the studio system in Hollywood as RKO sells off its theaters.

Perhaps the saddest movie ever made, Vittorio de Sica's The Bicycle Thief is released in Italy

Academy Award - Best Picture: Olivier's Hamlet

Highest Grossing Film: The Road to Rio

1949 Bryant Haliday, an actor and founding member of the BTC, purchases Brattle Hall from Hersey for $148,000. The persecution of "communists" in Hollywood, begun in 1947, continues as several more names are dropped in connection with "the reds." Among those named are Charlie Chaplin, Frank Sinatra, Orson Welles and Katherine Hepburn. Academy Award - Best Picture: All the King's Men

Highest Grossing Film: Jolson Sings Again

Cannes - Grand Prize / Palm d'Or: The Third Man

1950 Although the BTC generally operates outside the star system, a number of great performers appear in its productions. Zero Mostel, for example, makes his acting debut in Moliere's The Imaginary Invalid at the Brattle this season, and Hume Cronyn and Jessica Tandy perform in the world premiere of Edmund Wilson's The Little Blue Light.

In the early 50s, the Brattle players also create a television series for WBZ-TV called "That Young Couple," sponsored by the Boston Gas Company.

All About Eve, starring Bette Davis, opens. It rakes in a record 14 Oscar nominations

Akira Kurasawa's Rashomon is released in Japan.

Academy Award - Best Picture: All About Eve

Highest Grossing Film: Samson and Delilah

1951 Hermione Gingold makes her American debut at the Brattle in It's About Time. Other highlights of that season include a pre-Broadway tryout of a new version of Pirandello's Right You Are If You Think You Are, translated and directed by Eric Bentley. The Science Fiction genre blossoms in earnest with the release of three classics: The Day the Earth Stood Still, The Thing and When Worlds Collide Academy Award - Best Picture: An American in Paris

Highest Grossing Film: David and Bethesda

Cannes - Grand Prize / Palm d'Or: Miricle in Milan and Miss Julie

1952 RTC dissolves, although many of its members go on to establish careers in New York City, where for example RTC director Albert Marre earns a name for himself directing Kismet. Marilyn Monroe's first appearance on the cover of Life. Academy Award - Best Picture: The Greatest Show on Earth

Highest Grossing Film: The Greatest Show on Earth

Cannes - Grand Prize / Palm d'Or: Othello and Two Cents Worth of Hope

1953 The Brattle Theatre becomes a moviehouse this year, at the same time as cinemascope, 3-d, and magnetic sound make their movie industry debuts.

Bryant Haliday and Cyrus Harvey Jr., who had been an early member of the VTW, import the "rear screen projection" system used on cruise ships to convert the Brattle into an art film house. The first film the "new Brattle" shows is a German import, The Captain from Kopenick.

Charlie Chaplin, who has moved to Switzerland, gives up the reentry permit that would allow him to return to the United States. There is a standing threat by the US Attorney General to investigate his communist sympathies if he should return. Academy Award - Best Picture: From Here to Eternity

Highest Grossing Film: The Robe (The first CinemaScope feature)

Cannes - Grand Prize / Palm d'Or: Wages of Fear

1954 Although the BTC no longer officially exists, many members of the company continue to work together in essentially "Brattle" productions such as Shaw's Misalliance which opens at New York's City Center and then moves to the Barrymore Theatre, where it runs for a year. A former newspaper cartoonist, Frederico Fellini, releases La Strada in Italy. It is his first departure from the neo-realist style (practically a national style in Italy) and he is sharply criticized for it. Academy Award - Best Picture: On the Waterfront

Highest Grossing Film: White Christmas

Cannes - Grand Prize / Palm d'Or: Gate of Hell

1955 Haliday and Harvey found Janus Films to distribute foreign films nationwide.

Closer to home, the pair challenge Massachusetts's blue laws when the state's Public Safety Commissioner attempts to halt the Sunday showing of the film Miss Julie on the grounds that it "would disturb the peace of the Lord's Day." The Brattle wins, and the Massachusetts Supreme Court lifts the 1908 laws.

Haliday and William Morris Hunt, another former BTC member, establish the Brattle Theatre Shakespeare Festival and produce Henry IV and Othello at the Brattle during the summer months, when the movie-house is dark. Both productions subsequently move to the 5,500-seat City Center and the following year are awarded the American Shakespeare Festival's prestigious Stratford Award.

James Dean dies in a car crash in his brand new Porsche only 13 days after filming a television spot for th National Highway Safety Committee. He is 24 years old. Academy Award - Best Picture: Marty

Highest Grossing Film: Cinerama Holiday

Cannes - Grand Prize / Palm d'Or: Marty

mid-1950's This is a bad period for movie houses in general, with roughly six thousand theatres closing over the course of a three-year period.

Harvey and Haliday begin the annual tradition of screening Bogart films at Harvard exam time. The ensuing "Bogie cult," which gives rise to the Club Casablanca and the Blue Parrot Cafe at Brattle Hall, gains popularity nationwide.

1958 In one of many Brattle coups Harvey and Haliday locate Eisenstein's film Ivan the Terrible, Part II, which was thought to have been destroyed by Stalin, and screen its American premiere at the Brattle. Orson Welles returns to Hollywood to star in a police melodrama. His co-star, Charlton Heston, demands that Welles direct. Welles rewrites the script and creates one of his most impressive and darkest works, Touch of Evil. But the film is a flop and Welles again leaves the States to work abroad. Academy Award - Best Picture: Gigi

Highest Grossing Film: The Bridge Over the River Kwai

Cannes - Grand Prize / Palm d'Or: The Cranes are Flying

1961 Harvey and Haliday take over University Theatre, which they rename the Harvard Square Cinema.

Harvey accepts the Academy Award for Best Foreign Film for Ingmar Bergman for his movie The Virgin Spring.

The French new wave is going strong, and revolutionizing cinema, with the release of Truffaut's Jules et Jim and Resnais' Last Year at Marienbad. Academy Award - Best Picture: The Apartment

Highest Grossing Film: The Guns of Navarone

Cannes - Grand Prize / Palm d'Or: Viridiana and Une Aussi Longue Absence

1963 This year marks the beginning of major renovations that continue for the next ten vears and that pave the way for the opening of new retail businesses. Sean Connery begins his franchise as James Bond with the release of Dr. No. He will go on to play 007 in another 6 movies. Academy Award - Best Picture: Tom Jones

Highest Grossing Film: Cleopatra

Cannes - Grand Prize / Palm d'Or: The Leopard

1966 Bergman's Persona goes to United Artists, which marks the beginning of the end for Janus Films. By this time movie theatres have begun to make the move to shopping malls and fewer and fewer detached art film houses remain.

Later in the year Janus Films is sold. Although Haliday sells Brattle Hall to Bramont Trust, Harvey continues to operate the Brattle Theatre well into the next decade.

Ronald Reagan is elected governor of California.

Andy Warhol's Chelsea Girls is released.

Academy Award - Best Picture: A Man for All Seasons

Highest Grossing Film: Thunderball

Cannes - Grand Prize / Palm d'Or: A Man and a Woman and The Birds, the Bees and the Italians

1970's Brattle Hall is further subdivided at the start of this decade, and by the end, the original Brattle balcony is removed. The Brattle Theatre, which now makes up 35% of Brattle Hall, is the size that it is today.
1976 Harvey leases Brattle Hall to Sari Abul-Jubein of G & A Associates, Inc. During this period Abul-Jubein, with the help of Bill Holodnak, who handles programming for the Brattle, continues to build upon the Brattle's record as a distinguished repertory cinema. Shooting begins on Apocolypse Now and Star Wars. Star Wars opens the next year. Apocolypse Now, plagued by every possible problem, will not premiere until 1979. Academy Award - Best Picture: Rocky

Highest Grossing Film: One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest

Cannes - Grand Prize / Palm d'Or: Taxi Driver

1978 Brattle Square Associates, a private partnership, buys Brattle Hall. Roman Polanski flees the US to escape sentencing for a statutory rape charge. Meanwhile, Lois Malle's Pretty Baby premieres, featuring a distinctly under-age Brooke Shields. Academy Award - Best Picture: The Deer Hunter

Highest Grossing Film: Grease

Cannes - Grand Prize / Palm d'Or: The Tree of Wooden Clogs

1982 Susan Pollack leases the Brattle Theatre. With her husband, J.D., she adds the theatre's first concession stand and builds a new balcony. Science Fiction and Fantasy films rule the day (and the box office) as E.T., Conan the Barbarian, Star Trek II, Blade Runner and The Road Warrior are all released. Academy Award - Best Picture: Ghandi

Highest Grossing Film: E.T.

Cannes - Grand Prize / Palm d'Or: Missing

1984 The Pollacks's firm, Brattle Hall Associates (BHA), buys the lease to the Galleria Cinema in Harvard Square and renames it the Janus Cinema. Joel and Ethan Cohen's first feature film, Blood Simple, starring Frances McDormand, premieres at the New York Film Festival. Academy Award - Best Picture: Amadeus

Highest Grossing Film: Ghostbusters

Cannes - Grand Prize / Palm d'Or: Paris, Texas

1985 Monologist Spalding Gray performs the Boston premiere of Swimming to Cambodia, at the Brattle, where he also gives the world premiere of Terrors of Pleasure. Orson Welles, Rock Hudson and Yul Brynner die within the span of one month, Welles and Brynner on the same day. Academy Award - Best Picture: Out of Africa

Highest Grossing Film: Back to the Future

Cannes - Grand Prize / Palm d'Or: When Father Was Away on Business

1986 BHA files for bankruptcy. Marianne Lampke and Connie White form Running Arts and acquire the lease to the Brattle Theatre. Academy Award - Best Picture: Platoon

Highest Grossing Film: Top Gun

Cannes - Grand Prize / Palm d'Or: The Mission

1987 January of this year marks the reopening of the Brattle under Running Arts with the showing of Joan Crawford's Sudden Fear. Running Arts reinstates independent and repertory cinema at the Brattle. Highlights of their tenancy include an ongoing independent film showcase, cabaret performances, Film Noir Mondays, and the 50th- anniversary reissue of Gone with the Wind. Academy Award - Best Picture: The Last Emperor

Highest Grossing Film: Beverly Hills Cop II

Cannes - Grand Prize / Palm d'Or: Under Satan's Sun

1989 WordsWorth Books opens the first ongoing literary series at the Brattle in more than 50 years, WordsWorth Readings. Academy Award - Best Picture: Driving Miss Daisy

Highest Grossing Film: Batman

1990 Running Arts celebrates the Brattle's centennial season with a series of restruck and archival prints of movie classics. Live classical theatre returns to the Brattle with the opening of The Winter's Tale, produced by The Boston Theatre Project. Academy Award - Best Picture: Dances with Wolves

Highest Grossing Film: Ghost

Cannes - Grand Prize / Palm d'Or: Wild at Heart

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