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Off The Wall

Posted by Jim Botticelli  August 22, 2013 11:28 AM

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Off the wall.jpg
Photo from the Mike Peck Collection 
A pedestrian walks by Off The Wall's Pearl Street location

The Off The Wall Cinema was a Cambridge institution for over a decade. Despite its self description as a Coffeehouse of the Arts, film was their stock in trade, and if it was well known it was not seen at this cinema. Obscurities were their specialty and no format was off limits. Documentaries, silents, concert films, animation, all got their 15 plus minutes here. This is where yours truly got to first see the T.A.M.I Show (Teenage Awards Music International), the 1964 concert for teens filmed in L.A., but never seen here in DOB, featuring a wide range of artists from Lesley Gore to The Rolling Stones.

The place felt less like a cinema and more like a living room. Capacity was about 100. Bakery products and coffee were substituted for candy, popcorn and tonic. The atmosphere was relaxed and decidedly countercultural. It was the Peoples' Republic at its best.

Off The Wall Cinema was first opened in 1974 on Main Street, just below Central Square. In 79, hoping to catch the Faneuil Hall Market crowd, they jumped river and opened shop in Quincy Market, but failed to catch on. In 1980 they recrossed the Charles, landing at 15 Pearl Street, where the lefty 100 Flowers Bookstore had just closed. They remained in business until 1986.

Did video kill the cinema star? You can get the T.A.M.I. Show today on DVD. You can probably even see it on YouTube. Most classic docs and shorts are out there in some easily accessible  format. And last we checked 15 Pearl Street is a Senior Citizen Center.

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About the author

Jim Botticelli, a 1976 Northeastern University graduate, is a retired Boston Public Schools teacher. In college, he drove a cab and learned the city's cow paths. An avid collector of More »

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