The place now known as the Brattle Theatre, was first founded in 1871 by the Cambridge Social Union. The original purpose was to provide a free reading room and library. Soon after that, in 1889, the Brattle Hall was built. Several plays were performed at the Brattle beginning in 1891, as the Cambridge Social Dramatic Club was formed. The theatre was even able to survive through the Stock Market crash and WWI & WWII.
2. The Bogie Cult
In the late 1950s, the Brattle started a tradition of showing films starring Humphrey Bogart during Harvard University’s final exam week. Soon a following known as the “Bogie Cult” was formed. This tradition is still alive to this day, as the theatre is packed on days when they play a Bogart film. One of their most popular traditions is the screening of the Bogart film Casablanca on Valentine’s Day.
3. Rear-Projection System
Like most modern theaters, the Brattle has made the switch to digital… but not entirely. The theater still goes old-fashion when it comes to projecting some of their movies. In almost all modern theatres, you will notice that the movie projector is placed behind the audience. The Brattle’s 35 mm projector, on the other hand, is located behind the screen.
4. Staying Alive
Unlike countless similar independent “art house” theatres that have been shut down in recent years, the Brattle has managed to stay open. They play a mixture of foreign, art house, and popular recent films. They also hold a lot of events to keep the interest of the public, such as a yearly party on Oscar Night. In January 2013, the Brattle was looking to catch up with modern times with some improvements to their theatre. They took the issue to Kickstater.com and managed to raise close to $150,000 to upgrade the HVAC system and install a digital projector – which allows them to play newer films.
In 1928, the Harvard Dramatic Club’s production of Communist author Michael Gold’s political drama Fiesta premiered at the Brattle. Shortly thereafter, Cambridge’s mayor banned the play, calling it “extremely objectionable.” This was the Brattle’s first of many fights for artistic freedom.
Bobby Driscoll is a student at Franklin Pierce University. He is currently interning at CBS Boston for the Summer of 2013.