What is the Orson Welles Complex?

It is NOT some sort of psychological designation. No, it is the name of a legendary Harvard Square location that featured a cinema, a restaurant, a film school and more. It was decades ahead of its time and it was nationally known. Lots of famous people are connected to it. We’re making a documentary about it, the time and why it has more meaning today.

But, Orson Welles? Wasn’t he some fat Hollywood guy who smoked cigars and shilled cheap wine?

Well, that’s one way of looking at him. To people who know,  he was the creative genius who shocked a nation on radio, directed arguably the finest American film of all time, CITIZEN KANE, and was ultimately squashed by the powers in Hollywood who found his brand of creativity threatening.

But why was the place named Orson Welles?

In CITIZEN KANE, Charles Foster Kane took over a newspaper and wrote a statement of principles. When the Welles began, a statement of principles was also written. The goals were the same. To be a different kind of place, to be only the best, to be a community center, and to symbolize the changes sweeping through America.

Was the place famous?

Yes. It was the first three screen art house in the country. It was instrumental in establishing the American Independent film movement. It justifiably credited with bringing reggae to the US. Heck, the first house manager was some dude named Tommy Lee Jones. Yeah, that’s right. In his first gig, the future Oscar winner called it “the coolest.”

Were there any other famous people associated with the Welles?

How about these names? Film critic David Ansen, SxSw’s Louis Black, Peter Bogdanovich, Fred Barron, Carol Channing, Jimmy Cliff, Austin de Besche, Edward Dmytryk, Esther Dyson, Ed Emschiller, David Halprin, Larry Jackson, Tommy Lee Jones, Henry Kissinger,  Henri Langlois, Jay Leno, Steve Lisberger,  Nikita Malkalokov, Frank Marshall, Janet Maslin, Jim McBride, Vincente Minelli, Michael Nozik, Otto Preminger, Martha Pinson, Nick Ray, Craig Russell, John Semper Jr, Stephen Schiff,  George Segal, author Nat Segaloff, Cybil Shepherd, Susan Corey Stockton, Max von Sydow, Francois Truffaut, Neil Young, and many, many more.

Why is your project named THE ORSON WELLES COMPLEX?

Simple. That’s was the name of the cinema, the restaurant and film school. It was a complex devoted to film. And if they think it is a psychological condition, it could draw them in.

Where is the Welles?

The question should be where WAS the Welles. It was located just off the Harvard University campus at 1001 Mass Ave in Cambridge MA. Sadly, a popcorn machine fire destroyed the place. It was never rebuilt.

How come it wasn’t rebuilt?

Ahhh, that’s part of the story.

OK, you’re making a film. When will the be done?

We’re planning to finishing up the film in early summer 2015 to coincide with Orson Welles’ 100th birthday. Yeah, you’re right, we’re marketing the film now and we’ll be riding that wave into theaters and film festivals.

How can I help?

If you have money, you can donate or buy something from our ‘store’. If you’d like to volunteer, send us an email.