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AMC to close theater in Harvard Square in July

Posted by Brock Parker  June 21, 2012 10:58 AM

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Pedestrians on Church Street in Harvard Square walk by a mural at the AMC Loews Harvard Square building in 2010. (Essdras M Squarez / Globe Staff)

The AMC Theater in Harvard Square, where fans of the cult classic “The Rocky Horror Picture Show” have come to see their favorite film every week for 28 years, is closing, a spokesman said Thursday.

The closure would leave The Brattle Theatre, which shows cutting-edge, foreign, and art-house films, as the last movie theater in Harvard Square, said Denise Jillson, the executive director of the Harvard Square Business Association.

Jillson said that because of its age and smaller size, the AMC theater on Church Street doesn’t fit the mold of the more conventional, large movie theaters today. A theater has been at the Church Street location since 1925.

She said the business association is excited about the possibilities of what could move into the space, but with AMC is closing the theater, she doubts another movie theater would move in.

“If they choose not to be here, given the size of their company and the kind of resources they have, it’s unlikely that someone else would be able to do it effectively, unless you sort of change the concept completely,” Jillson said.

Sarah Burks, a preservation planner for the Cambridge Historical Commission, said the theater was built in 1925 as the University Theater with an entrance on Massachusetts Avenue. Later the building was called the Harvard Square Theater and the marquee was moved to Church Street side of the building in 1982.

AMC has run the theater since the company purchased Loews in 2006, said AMC Theatres spokesman Ryan Noonan. Noonan said in an emailed statement to the Globe Thursday that the company has decided to sell the location, formally called the AMC Loews Harvard Square 5, and will close the theater at the end of business on Sunday, July 8.

“We continually strive to upgrade the quality of our theatre circuit by adding new screens and by disposing of older screens through closures and sales,” Noonan said.

The theater on Church Street has been the destination of costume-clad movie-goers for the past 28 years to see the midnight showing of “The Rocky Horror Picture Show” every Saturday.

Some fans of the film cross-dress as brides, while some don corsets and fishnets.

“It’s an event,” said John Geoffrian, a 40-year-old actor and director who lives in Cambridge. “It’s one of those cult things that keeps on going.”

The building falls within a Harvard Square conservation district, and as a result the Historical Commission would regulate any changes to the exterior of the building. But the commission would not regulate the future use of the building Burks said.

Ned Hinkle, the creative director at The Brattle Theatre, said he can remember seeing “Taxi Driver” at the theater on Church Street many years ago and said the theater was known for its double features.

Hinkle said the closing of the AMC theater, though sudden, does not come as a surprise, however. The closure was reported Thursday by the Harvard Crimson.

“It’s been rumored on and off for years,” he said.

Geoffrian said it's a shame that many of the older movie theaters are closing, and he called the theater on Church Street a cultural institution.

“I think it’s a part of the family of the city,” Geoffrian said. “I hate to see it go.”

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