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The Orson Welles Complex

A film by Garen Daly

The Orson Welles Complex is a documentary film about the legendary Camrbidge MA cinema, restaurant, book store and film school. It arose following a torchlight parade on April 8, 1969 and ended in flames on May 24, 1986.

In it’s short life span it embodied a rich culutral change and paved the way for the modern art house movie theatre. People who worked or experienced the Welles is impressive. Tommy Lee Jones was its first manager. Jay Leno honed his craft in the Restaurant. Jimmy Cliff and reggae music broke the American market through the Welles. Van Morris, Errol Morris, Stephen King, Carl Sagan and many many more have a connection to it.

But this isn’t a film about celebrity. It is about a specific time in American culture where one generation gathered and another reacted. It is a time when a movie theatre could, and did, shape the development of American indpependent filmmaking. John Sayles, Joan Micklin Silver, John Waters, David Halerin and others got their films to screen there and in so doing, established themselves as artists.

Today, with many independent theaters facing extinction because of the digital migration or shifting tastes, the Orson Welles Complex looks back to what was and in so doing reaches forward to see what might be.


Associated Members

We are grateful for the generous support of our sponsors:

Massachusetts Cultural Council
Lowel Cultural Council
Cabot Family Charitable Trust
Liberty Mutual Foundation
City of Boston Arts and Culture