The Charles Theatre

THALIA2.jpg (10787 bytes)We focused on the New Yorker and the Thalia theaters yet the Charles "provided the underground with it's first, semi permanent base of operations." Located in the Lower East Side, while the theaters tenure was short-lived (a little over a year--beginning in 1961) it's legacy was quite impressive. " became a landmark of sorts in the creation of an American counterculture."

Jonas Mekas was hired by the owners of the Charles to organize some additional screenings. "Mekas was then in the early stages of his passionate commitment to American experimental cinema" but "had an eye for new talent"...and began holding monthly open screenings which turned out to be great social events. Some audience members quickly made the transition to filmmakers, while others acted/participated as critics.

In light of the above the Charles emerges as a "Great Good Place" because "it was the spiritual home of a particular utopian ideology, a place where the audience was not just the passive recipient of mass-produced fantasies, but an active community, producing movies for itself. The Charles therefore incorporated films and film making into an alternative sense of family and community through freedom and equality (two fundamental ideas in the very groundwork of the arts and counterculture, according to Banes).

This inclusion, however, ultimately destroyed the theater. The Charles closed it's doors because of financial troubles that began when admission could not be collected because it could not be decided who exactly were the filmmakers and who was the audience.

Lynette Erbe

Promotional Flyer, 1962

The Charles is a new and different kind of theatre, a movie house
that offers a unique variety of film programs and entertainment. 

Among the many films you see at the Charles are the finest recent releases, revivals of great classics, rare silent masterpieces, new films by independent filmmakers, and the most daring experimental works of both American and foreign directors.

Besides its regular program of films, the Charles has a continuous exhbition of paintings and sculpture by New York artists, weekly performances by a keen Baroque chamber music ensemble, occasional live children's matinees, and special kinds of entertainment on Wednesday evenings.

Also personal appearances of important film personalities. And Sundays, from 2 to 5, a live jazz concert.

Come to the Charles and see for yourself - you will find it the most informal theatre in town.

Myron Lounsbury

Promotional Flyer

The Tompkins Square Peace Center and the Charles Theatre 

Co-Sponsor a program of

Peace Films

At the Charles Theatre, Avenue B and East 12th Street



well-known folksinger, will perform

Admission is free all day

These programs are being presented in sympathy with the General Strike for Peace, which has been set for the week of January 29th.

Myron Lounsbury

Promotional Flyer

Charles Theatre 12th St. Ave B

Opens Friday, July 13th

"The Flower Thief" (1960) by Ron Rice, and "Lemon Hearts" (1961) by Vernon Zimmerman, are two of the latest and most successful examples of post-"Pull My Daisy" cinema.... They merge and combine the spontaneous cinema of "Pull My Daisy", the freedom of image of "Brakhage", the uncleanliness of "Action Painting", the theatre of Happenings (Kaprow) and the sense of humor of Zen. Their imagination, coming from deeply "deranged" and liberated senses, is boundless. Nothing is formal in these films. They rediscover the poetry and wisdom of the irrational, of nonsense, of the absurd -- the poetry which comes from regions which are beyond all intelligence.....

Myron Lounsbury

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