There is a cinema in Jamaica Plain. The Wenham Street Cinema. But drive up and down Wenham Street and you won't find a giant multiplex with humongous screens. The Wenham Street Cinema is inside Matt Shuman's garage, and if you haven't heard about it yet, it's quite popular.
The cinema's showings include TV shows, movies, political debates, and this summer a live concert series. Shuman answered questions about the cinema's origins, future, and more.
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Q: What made you want to start the Wenham Street Cinema?
Shuman: I have always felt communities are stronger when people know their neighbors. To me, the cinema is a mechanism to build connections, friendships, and a sense of togetherness.
Q: It's gained a lot of notoriety, so much that WBUR included it in its guide to summer drive-ins and outdoor movie pop-ups. This summer the cinema is hosting live concerts. What are your future plans/goals for the cinema?
Shuman: My goal today remains the same as when we started about six years ago: to build community through film, food, and discussion. It has been a real honor to be covered by WBUR, the JP Gazette, and JP News. Down the line I'd love to improve the cinema a bit by fixing the projection wall so I can project on it. I'd also like to get a better sound system. And, of course, I'd love to expand my Instagram following so I can easily reach more people @WenhamStreetCinema). Note: We have an email list as well, wenham-street-cinema@
Q: Why did you decide to team up with Light of Day Records (inside Monumental Market) to host live concerts this summer?
Shuman: Chris from Light of Day reached out to me during COVID and asked if I was interested in collaborating as his space is mighty, but small. As a big fan of Light of Day, and Monumental Market, I was overjoyed at the opportunity.
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Q: What's the max capacity of the cinema?
Shuman: For the Trump/Clinton debates we had over 70 people! It was a blast, but some of those people were on the periphery. I would say 40 people can fit comfortably, 50 if they want to snuggle a bit.
Q: What do you want people to know about the Wenham Street Cinema?
Shuman: The two most important things I'd like people to know are:
Wenham Street Cinema is always free, always open to the public, and always seeking to become more inclusive and welcoming. As an example, we recently made a commitment to always show films with subtitles. If readers have ideas how we can do better, we want to know!
Please tell your friends about Wenham Street Cinema! We can only bring people together to build community if Jamaica Plain knows about what we are doing and our mission.
Q: Are naming rights available like the Coca Cola Wenham Street Cinema? Or something more local?
Shuman: If a local business or organization wanted to sponsor some physical improvements to the space, we would be more than happy to discuss naming rights. Of course, our values would have to align and they would have to not be actively involved in a lawsuit against affordable housing in JP.