Board Grants Night License To Theater

Reversing an action it took two weeks ago, the Cambridge Board of Licenses yesterday granted the Brattle Theatre a permit to show movies at midnight on Fridays and Saturdays.

"The last time we voted on this I feel we were not fully informed," Leo Davenport, chief of Cambridge police and a member of the licensing board, said after a rehearing of the theater's application. "Since that time we have learned that three other Cambridge theaters show movies at midnight."

The three-member board rejected the theater's license application in late September, stating that permitting movies to be shown at midnight "would set a bad precedent" and would cause traffic congestion in Harvard Square. That decision forced Brattle Theatre to turn away 300 moviegoers from midnight showings of "Eraserhead" on the weekend of September 29.

"We probably do not need a special license to show movies at midnight except when the shows run into early Sunday morning and become subject to 'blue laws,'" John J. Campbell, attorney for Brattle Theatre, said yesterday. "But we would rather apply for a license covering Friday and Saturday nights and ward off any problems with the licensing board."

All Cambridge theaters hold weekday and Sunday entertainment licenses, but the three which show midnight movies--Harvard Square Theatre, the Off the Wall Cinema, and the Orson Welles Cinema--hold no special permit for midnight showings.


While the board members unanimously voted to grant a midnight movie permit to the Brattle Theatre yesterday, they did not specify if the other theaters showing movies at that time need a similar license.


"This whole dispute has made no sense at all," said J.D. Pollack, director of public relations for the Orson Welles Cinema, which has shown midnight movies for seven years. "I do not see how the board members could have been unaware of the fact that movies are shown at midnight in Cambridge and every other major city in the United States."

The rehearing proceeding took less than five minutes and contained no discussion of the issues board members cited two weeks ago when they rejected the Brattle Theatre's earlier application. Campbell, along with Sari Abul-Jubein, the owner of the theater, told the board that other Cambridge theaters run midnight movies and that the movies planned at the Brattle "are of the same high quality as the movies that we have shown for many years."

The board members did not ask any questions, and none expressed any opposition to the application when it was discussed after the hearing.

"Sometimes I think that if people submitted all the evidence at the first hearing they would get a better reception," Davenport said yesterday. "If they have resolved all of our concerns, far be it from us to curb their incentive.