Manila’s Downtown Cinemas: Flicks and Memories

What was once a beacon of vibrant, colorful, and glamorous entertainment is now a forgotten, struggling and lonely place.

Downtown Manila has been known as a center of educational and commercial activities. Movie houses were very prominent as early as 1930s with the screening of local films. First-run theaters such as Times, Dilson, Roben, Vista and Lords were very big names back then.

One of the most prominent theater way back was the Roman Super Cinerama located at the corner of C.M. Recto and Quezon Boulevard which opened in 1963. It brought the latest cinema technology to the moviegoers of Manila. It was like the IMAX theater of that time, giving the patrons a very good and satisfying movie experience.

roman-super-cinerama
Roman Super Cinerama (C.M. Recto corner Quezon Blvd.) Source

Movies were clearly an integral part of our rich history back then. Cinema houses abound in Manila especially along Claro M. Recto Avenue, Quezon Boulevard and Avenida Rizal. Some were even designed by famous architects at that time. Sadly, due to changing times, most of these theaters have been closed, demolished, or rebuilt into different establishments.

location-of-movie-houses
Locations of some of the movie houses in Downtown Manila

Weeks ago, I went to Times Theater, just across the Quiapo Church, to see how these cinemas are running compared to the ones we have in shopping malls. With these architectural designs and amazing forms, one can just imagine why this was the go-to place for movie entertainment by the people before.

Times Theater is still operation to date, showing local films or second-run B-movies
Times Theater is still operation to date, showing local films or second-run B-movies

Designed by Architect Luis Z. Araneta and built in 1939, this 800-seater cinema was one of the reminders of our country’s rich movie history. Today, it screens B-movies and other lesser known films, for seventy to seventy-five pesos, to be able to keep up with the business.

Inside Times Square along Quezon Boulevard
Inside Times Square along Quezon Boulevard

Inside the theater, you can notice its difference from the modern cinema complexes we have been accustomed to. Upon entering, you will be greeted by the smell of old wood flanked with big metallic fans on both sides. With its ceiling paint peeling off, some chairs not working anymore, and a big, dimly-lit projector, you can see how it has not kept up with modernization.

Its Art Deco design style with curving forms and horizontal lines clearly is just a remnant of its glorious past.

Due to the delays in the building of LRT1 in the early 1980s, regular moviegoers opted to the cinemas in malls where they can eat, shop and watch movies all at the same time. This greatly hurt the operation of the Manila cinema houses, prompting some of them to close down. Others resorted to showing B-movies and sometimes soft-porn or R-rated movies, to still keep operating their businesses such as Dilson and Hollywood Theater.

Dilson Theatre (along C.M. Recto)
Dilson Theatre (along C.M. Recto)
Never Heard Movies
Never Heard Movies
Obscure Tittilating Movies
Obscure Tittilating Movies
Hollywood Theatre
Hollywood Theatre
What things lie in the VIP Room?
What things lie in the VIP Room?

Others were not able to keep up with the costs and decided to close and move on to different endeavors such as Vista Cinemas, Roben, Lider and Gold RTM, to name a few.

Roben Theater
Roben Theater
Vista Cinemas (closed just months ago)
Vista Cinemas (closed just months ago)

Whether in the past or in today’s times, one cannot dismiss how Filipinos love watching movies. It has been an integral part of our culture, proven by our rich history of movies and cinema houses as early as 30s or 40s. It is important that we don’t forget our good old days and use it to appreciate whatever we have today.

Nowadays, filmmakers have utilized this very powerful tool to convey timely messages and to touch the hearts of the people. We must continue to support and encourage local filmmakers and directors so that we can produce quality movies which we can be proud of and share with the world.

Classic Filipino films.
Classic Filipino films.

[Entry 267, The SubSelfie Blog]

About the Author:

Eleazar Batalla is a student at UE Caloocan, taking up AB Communication. He is an introvert with a pen, a passionalte realist and a visionary with extraordinary dreams to achieve. Lover of all things Sci-Fi and a Marvel nerd.

 

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