Alternative and Independent Movie Theaters Around Boston, Massachusetts

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Foreign films, cult classics and independent experiments rarely show up on the screens of the nation's chain-owned megaplexes. For such diversity, check out the alternative theaters in and around Boston, Massachusetts.

Brattle Theater. 40 Brattle Street, Cambridge, MA 02138. (617) 876-6837. This single-screen theater calls itself the only independent cinema in Cambridge. Just off the Harvard Square T stop in the historic Brattle Hall, the Brattle seats about 250. It screens mostly double features of Hollywood classics, though week-long runs of new releases and the occasional festival (such as the yearly Bugs Bunny Film Festival) vary this schedule. Harvard Bookstore, a local independent, often holds popular author lectures here. Tickets are a bit higher than your average indie or second-run theater, but a) they're worth it and b) promotions with the local video rental store Hollywood Express can cut ticket costs a bit. Definitely the swankiest of all theaters reviewed here.

Capitol Theater. 204 Massachusetts Avenue, Arlington, MA 02474. (781) 648-6022. (Note: Since the Capitol and the Somerville [see below] are both owned by the same local chain, FEI Theatres, they share a Web site.) With its luminescent, oversize Art Deco marquee and lobby detailing, the Capitol grabs your attention from the first moment that you lay eyes on it. Once you enter, you can admire the original proscenium stage in theater number one, which seats about 320. The other five auditoriums seat about 250. Second-run movies come pretty early to the Capitol, where they linger occasionally past their DVD release. With a $6.50 adult ticket and a $4.75 weekday matinee before 6:00 PM, the Capitol combines a variety of movies with affordable prices.

Coolidge Corner Theater. 290 Harvard Street, Brookline, MA 02146. (617) 734-2501. Formerly a Universalist church, the Coolidge Theater is now a 3-screen Art Deco temple to art-house, second-run, foreign, first-run documentary and classic movies. Its main theater, with a dramatic recessed screen behind a luxurious red curtain, seats 600. On the second floor, there is a theater with stadium seating for 250, as well as an intimate screening room for about 50. Besides hosting major film festivals, the Coolidge also offers lectures in conjunction with the local Brookline Booksmith and a full slate of entertainment for children. The Coolidge's prices are just slightly cheaper than the average megaplex's, but, unlike a megaplex, the Coolidge is a one-stop shop for your indie and alterna-culture self-education. Beat that, Loews!

Landmark Kendall Square Cinema. 1 Kendall Square, Cambridge, MA 02139. (617) 499-1976. The Art Deco revival marquee of the Kendall characterizes one of the nation's most popular and beloved theaters. Built just over two decades ago, the 9-screen Kendall is the most profitable of Landmark's locations across the country; it's also repeatedly ranked Best of Boston for offering independent, foreign and documentary cinema. If they sell well, films may stay longer than their scheduled run. Although hard to find for pedestrians (it's somewhere near the Kendall T station), the Kendall sits right near an ample parking garage, which is good news for drivers. Prices are a buck or two less than your average national super-chain, but the selection is much more interesting. One of my favorites (when I can figure out how to get there from the subway).

Somerville Theatre. 55 Davis Square, Somerville, MA 02144. (617) 625-4088. Literally right next to the Davis Square T station exit, the Somerville Theatre, with its bright marquee and 900-seat main theater, has been a cultural institution since its opening in the early 1900s. Plays, opera and vaudeville shows appeared at the Somerville before it turned into a 5-screen movie palace. The theater now shows second-run films (the least popular show up quickly) and the occasional Bollywood or indie flick, all of which run anywhere from a week to a month. Themed midnight movies and film festivals round out the programming. But the Somerville is best-known for its live music performances; it draws big names like Joan Baez and Ani DiFranco, as well as comedians and lesser-known musicians. Concert tickets vary in price. You can't beat the convenient location, though, or the $4.00 weekday matinee! My favorite (but maybe I'm biased because I live five minutes away).

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