Every summer in Boston’s Chinatown, the Chinatown community creates a free, outdoor theater, showing Kung-Fu and classic Chinese-language films under the stars. Films at the Gate is a collaborative project of Chinatown residents, film curator Jean Lukitsh, Asian Community Development Corporation, and Boston Street Lab. A neighborhood tradition since 2006.
The series seeks to:
- improve awareness of Boston’s Chinatown as a site of cultural activity
- restore a tradition of shared, public experience of Chinese-language films in Chinatown
- provide temporary community use of Chinatown’s underutilized spaces, draw foot-traffic to neighborhood restaurants, and make downtown Boston a destination beyond the working hours.
The Asian Community Development Corporation is a founding sponsor and presenter of Films at the Gate. ACDC is a community-based organization serving the Asian American community of Greater Boston, with an emphasis on preserving and revitalizing Boston’s Chinatown. Since 2013, ACDC youth have taken over producing the event themselves!
Jean Lukitsh is the curator of the series. Jean is a former resident of Chinatown, and was the projectionist for two of the three cinemas that existed in Boston’s Chinatown in the 70s and 80s. Jean is a regular contributor to the popular website Kung Fu Cinema, a student of local wushu Master Bow Sim Mark, and a martial arts teacher in Boston.
Leslie and Sam Davol are founding producers of the event. After moving to Chinatown with their two children in 2005 and starting Films at the Gate, they founded the 501(c)(3) nonprofit Street Lab, which creates programs for public space in Boston and New York, including the Uni Project.
A Tradition of Film in Chinatown
Until the late 1980s, Chinatown had three movie theaters: The Pagoda on Washington St, the Star Cinema on Essex, and the China Cinema on Beach. In their heyday, the theaters showed double-features three times a day, often to packed houses from midday to midnight. Whole families would attend, and children would often play in the aisles.
At the Star and China cinemas in the 1970s and 80s, concessions consisted of vending machine-goods, bags of popcorn, and fortune cookies brought in by the owner. Patrons often brought in their own food as well. Jackie Chan movies were especially popular.
Facing pressure from the growing popularity of home video rentals, the Star cinema closed in 1986, and the others soon followed suit.