I remember the Bug House down on West Broadway near the corner F Street. Officially it was called Broadway Cinema but everyone called it the Bug House. I’m not really sure why but I never questioned its nickname – it’s what my parents and grandparents called it so I called it that too.
The Bug House had two theaters side by side, a large concession stand and very scary bathrooms in the basement. The lovely Cher Dimanno worked in the box office and collected the money for tickets from customers. I recall Cher as being a sort of glamorous woman with lots of makeup who smoked a lot – but I could be completely off base on my description. It was rumored that if you slipped Cher some extra cash, she would let you into an R rated movie. I never had the nerve to test that rumor. I just went to the G and PG rated films.
I saw Jaws at the Bug House. I also saw Freaky Friday with Jody Foster and Friday the 13th too. The movies were never new releases. They were usually released six months to a year before. But this fact was reflected in the ticket price and it was bargain for an adolescent living in Southie. You could bring $5 and get into the movie and have enough left over to purchase something from the concession stand.
Bringing in outside snacks or drinks was strictly prohibited. If you were suspected of smuggling in illegal contraband, you’d be frisked on site. Now in 2014, I would image if you frisked a 12-year old girl, the cops would be promptly called and a possible arrest made. But not back in the late 1970’s and early 80’s in Southie. You knew the rules going in – no outside snacks or drinks. You delt with the consequences if you got caught. My experiences at the Bug House as a young girl still causes fear and anxiety if I decide to sneak in a Kit Kat or a water from Rite Aid in the movies to this day. I usually become paranoid the head usher is eyeballing me suspiciously and at any moment I’m going to be searched and all of the contents of my pocketbook will be emptied and rummaged through. Bug House Syndrome.
Another characteristic of the Bug House was the floor in the theaters. Apparently, they didn’t have a custodian or janitor on staff to clean as evident in the thick sticky sludge that covered the floors from years of neglect and discarded Pepsi and smashed Junior Mints. I once dropped a sweatshirt on the floor and even though I picked it up immediately, it was lost forever. I threw it in the trash and had to explain to my mother why I didn’t have my sweatshirt when I came home.
I’m not exactly sure what year the Bug House closed its doors. I think I was in high school so I’m guessing the mid 1980’s. Mega-cineplexs were being built in the suburbs and we city kids were borrowing our parents cars and heading to Braintree or Randolph to see the new releases. The building where the Bug House once resided is still there and it is still vacant. I secretly hope that one day I’ll see a sign on that building reading “Coming Soon! The Grand Re-opening of the Bug House!” And I’ll bring my kids there.
Photo via Dirty Old Boston