BROOKLINE — In 2018, 378 movies screened at the Coolidge; 59 were foreign language films and 67 directed by women. “Our mission is to entertain, inform, and engage,” says the latest Coolidge Corner Theatre annual report — “building a vital community through film culture.”

Movies showing there this month range from “Once Upon a Time . . . in Hollywood” and “Downton Abbey” to “The 36th Chamber of Shaolin” (1978) with musical accompaniment from Wu-Tang Clan founder RZA, and “Underworld” (1927) with musical accompaniment from the Alloy Orchestra . Film culture past, present, and future is alive and well at 290 Harvard St.


That aliveness and wellness is owing to events that took place 30 years ago. Those events, and the Coolidge generally, are being celebrated at the Public Library of Brookline. “Only at the Coolidge” runs through Nov. 6.

In 1988, longtime proprietor Justin Freed announced that he would be selling the theater. A grassroots community effort sought to provide new, nonprofit ownership for the Art Deco gem, which had opened in 1933. With various twists and turns over the course of 1989, the Save the Coolidge campaign succeeded. This 30-year anniversary has a sad footnote: David Kleiler, who played a key role in the effort, died in April.

An exterior shot of the Coolidge Corner Theatre from 1936.
An exterior shot of the Coolidge Corner Theatre from 1936.Coolidge Corner Theatre Foundation

The exhibition comes in two parts.

The smaller is on display by the circulation desk. It consists of objects: Coolidge-related campaign-style buttons, an empty film reel, a metal bell to warn projectionists that the reel was nearing its end (talk about analog). An antique projector lamp looks so glorious it could be a flashlight from Olympus.

The larger is on the second floor, in Hunneman Hall. There are four programming schedules from the Coolidge’s ’80s revival-house heyday, as well as posters for films that have played there: “2001: A Space Odyssey” (1968), “Z” (1969), “Vanya on 42nd Street” (1994), “Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon” (2000).


Another poster is worth the price of admission by itself. That would be true even if admission weren’t free. It’s for “The Presbyterian Church Wager,” one of Robert Altman’s finest films and a landmark in the reimagining of the western. You’ve never heard of it? That’s because after the poster was printed the film’s title became “McCabe and Mrs. Miller” (1971).

Also on display are five Coolidge Award posters, each signed by the recipient: honoring Zhang Yimou, Meryl Streep, Jonathan Demme, Werner Herzog, and Julianne Moore.

Justin Freed’s 2002 photo of Ran Blake is in the exhibition.
Justin Freed’s 2002 photo of Ran Blake is in the exhibition.Justin Freed

Freed, a passionate photographer, has several portraits in the show. Subjects include Dennis Hopper, Andrei Tarkovsky, Herzog, and the New England Conservatory’s Ran Blake.

On Oct. 3, Blake will perform his “Hitchcock Suite” at the library, in conjunction with the exhibition. There may or may not be anyone alive who knows more about old movies of the noirish sort. There is definitely no one who loves them more, let alone who’s as gifted a composer and pianist.


At Public Library of Brookline, 361 Washington St., Brookline, through Nov. 6. 617-730-2370, www.brooklinelibrary.org

Mark Feeney can be reached at mfeeney@globe.com.