Wednesday, July 31, 2013

The Disappeared Theatres of Central Bogotá

The interior of the immense Teatro Olympia, which was also used as a skating rink and for religious services.

In 1970, Bogotá had about 100 independent functioning movie theatres, including many in the city center.
Today, few are left.

Sergio Becerra, an art professor at the Universidad de los Andes and ex-director of the Cinematica Distrital, believes the shift from independent theatres to home televisions and multiplexes attached to shopping malls, has robbed Bogotá of an important part of its culture. The old theatres, in addition to screening films, sometimes also doubled or tripled as skating rinks, churches and 

In a recent talk at the Casa de la Moneda Becerra described the shift to shopping mall cinema as inevitable, but lamentable. "The multiplexes are deplorable," he said. 

Perhaps the greatest loss for Bogotá was the demolition of the old Teatro Municipal, which was located beside the observatory behind the Presidential Palace. The theatre survived the Bogotazo riots triggered by the April 1948 assassination of politician Jorge Eliecer Gaitan - who had made many memorable and fiery speaches in the theatre - only to be demolished by the city. 

"They did it to bury Gaitan's memory," Becerra said. 

Ironically, today, Bogotá's municipal theatre, located on Calle Septima and 23st St., is named after Gaitan. 

A few of the movie theatres in central Bogotá. 

Central Bogotá, land of movie theatres.

The Teatro Ecci on Calle 17, which no longer shows films, but holds events such as graduations.

The Teatro Municipal, marked by the red dot, was located near the presidential palace, beside the astronomical observatory. Politician Jorge Eliecer Gaitan made many speeches there, and it survived the 1948 bogotazo riots only to be demolished by the city.

The classic Teatro Faenza, modeled after one in Italy, is being restored (slowly) by the Universidad Central. A grand art nouveau building built in 1924, it was Bogotá's first movie theatre. But it sank to showing porno films before finally closing in 2002.
The Teatro Mexico, across the street from the Faenza, also belongs to the Universidad Central and shows arts films.

The Teatro Jorge Eliecer Gaitan on Ave. Septima. But they don't show movies here.

The Teatro Pussycat on Ave. Septima, a holdover from the era when these blocks were part of the red light district. 

This handsome building on Carrera Septima across from the Avianca building looks like it was once a theatre. 

The disappeared Teatro Variedades on Carrera 7.

The Teatro Olympia. 

A porn theatre, on Calle 12, maintains downtown's film tradition. 

By Mike Ceaser, of Bogotá Bike Tours


mrgiles said...

Nice post, Mike; I didn´t realise there used to be so many such grand theatres around. I agree; the multiplexes are monstrosities! Another grand old theatre in the centro here - on the corner of Jimenez and Carerra 6 - is now an arts space: . I reckon this is a great use for it. Such a shame that such awesome architecture should go to waste.

Miguel said...

Thanks for your comment.

The Odeon is an interesting project. But I understand that the building was a theatre for plays, but never a movie theatre. I could be wrong, tho.