Monday, 31 March 2014

Once Were Cinemas (...or not?)

This post is an attempt to reply to a request of my friend Jacob.
He works in the cinema field in the USA, so he was curious to see and know something about the cinemas here in Rome.

I must say, my friend, I think that all the cinemas resemble each other in this era of gigantic concrete multiplex!
--But that's just partially true.

I engaged in a nostalgic investigation, and as the internet showed me, there are many cases of "historical" cinemas closing down because of poor business induced by the above mentioned multiplex galore, but it's also interesting to note that the most of them were cinemas rearranged into what were originally theatres.
As obvious as it may sound, it must be noted that some of these buldings were particularly charming in their cinematic attires and their story is also interesting.

One of the most intriguing cases is that of the Teatro Ambra Jovinelli.
It was originally conceived as a theatre dedicated to comedic and parodic pieces, with a soft spot for variety shows, so popular in Italy by default.
It was completed in 1903, and it kept being pretty active in the whole period preceeding the WWI, with its climax being the debut of the popular actor Totò in the 20s.
With the arrival of Fascism and cinematography, the theatre faced its first crisis, forcing it to reinvent itself as a cinema in the 50s.
Here's a picture of the building in this period, taken from the website Roma Sparita:
The introducing of television made the theatre face its second crisis, turning it into a cinema dedicated to porn movies and strip-tease shows in the 70s, before an accident in 1982 that led to its closure.
It looked like the Jovinelli was destined to become another deserted memorabilia in Rome, but starting 1996 the local communities started to fight to give it back its dignity, forcing the owners to restore it and finally put it back in action, in its original role of comedy theatre.
Here's how it looks now:

Another less lucky adventure is that of the Etoile Cine.
It was completed in 1915 as a theatre in super-chic center of Rome, with the name of Teatro Corso.
Just like the Jovinelli, it'll turn into a cinema in the 50s changing its name into Cinema Corso, to become Etoile Cine later on.
Here's one of the most recent pictures of the building, coming from this list of the cinemas of Rome in the 50s:
--In the last years the cinema closed down for lack of activity and the building was bought by Luis Vuitton that restored the facade and turned it into a boutique:

A similar fate was destined to the Cinema Metropolitan, again in the fancy center of Rome.
It was opened in 1911 as Cinema Teatro America and after various adventures, it found its identity as one of the few cinemas dedicated to movies in original language.
Here's a recent picture before its closure in 2010:
And how it looks now:
The fate of the cinema is still lingering, but the hopes are not very high.

It's interesting to note that another cinema dedicated to movies in original language is still resisting, despite its closure was announced over and over-- It's the Cinema Nuovo Olimpia, always in the center of Rome:

--So, are all the historical cinemas destined to close down and see themselves restiled as shops or the like?

A negative answer came from the Cinema Moderno.
Originally called Cinema Esedra because of its location in Piazza Esedra, its name was changed to Moderno later on and by the time it mostly scheduled b-rated movies or reruns.
Here's a pretty old picture of it, probably dating the period when it turned into another x-rated cinema, taken from 06blog:
Fortunately, the whole area was restructured to turn it into a sophisticated touristic zone, and the cinema was part of the renovation too.
It was bought by Warner Village, that kept its original name and restored the original location:

--On a fun note, it's nice to see that the staff entrance located at the back of the building kept its original look too.
This is an example of modern preservation and enhancement of cultural heritage too, in my opinion.

Another good example is Cineland, a multiplex located in Ostia, the "seaside" of Rome.
Originally, the area was occupied by the ginormous ruin of the dismissed Breda factory.
Here's how it looked back in the days, in a picture coming from the photo archive of the L'Unità newspaper:
The immense building restored and turned into a cinema village around 1997, featuring a multiplex, restaurants, fast foods, shops and a gigantic videogame hall.
Here's how the place looks now:

I love this building, and I love how perfectly it fits to its original context and area.

...Of course this is just a tiny part of the cinemas of Rome and their adventures, but I think that their stories were the most interesting-- thus working like a nice specimen.
I hope this post entertained you, dear Jacob, also if probably I didn't really asked your request--!

--Also if quite bitter, the words of Monicelli come to my mind: "Cinema is never going to die. It's born and it can't die anymore: the movie theatres will die, probably, but I couldn't care less about it now."

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