Thursday, March 4, 2010

New Life for Abandoned Cinema Spaces

It is very sad to see a beautiful cinema theater deteriorate. Here in San Francisco, we have many old theaters that have been wonderfully preserved, like the Castro Theater. Across the Bay the Fox Theater found a new life after being closed for more than 40 years. It is now a music venue and the permanent home of The Oakland School for The Arts.

Other old cinema houses have found less than stellar ends, like the amazing Alhambra on Polk street (it became a gym) and several theaters on Mission street. These theaters were being used as churches and in recent years, dollars stores. El Capitan is now a parking lot, and only the facade remains. Several more theaters like the Tower and the New Mission sit abandoned. Sadly just recently we lost other neighborhood treasures like the Coronet on Geary street.

Here is a new idea from Projecto Oxido (Project Rust) an artistic effort in Mexico City. On December of last year this project showed a documentary and a neon art installation in a grand old abandoned theater, The Cine Opera.

The project set up a free standing screen in the auditorium. Folding chairs were set up among the old decaying seats of the original theater. A documentary by Catalonian film maker Mireia Sellarés was projected for three consecutive days, and a neon installation titled "Las Muertes Chiquitas" (The small deaths) was set up in the lobby. Sellarés interviewed many women in her documentary. She covered subjects as varied as sexuality, rape and violence against women. The theater itself became part of the installation, alluding to subjects like neglect and abandonment.

Cine Opera debuted in 1949, with a capacity to host almost 4,000 movie goers. After becoming a concert venue during its later years, it finally closed in the early 90's. The future of this wonderful old movie house is uncertain, but I'm glad the project and the documentary raised awareness for women's issues as well as architectural preservation. Enjoy more photos from the Cine Opera, thanks to Rocio Echeverri Renteria and other contributors from the Mexico City threat at Skyscraper City. The following photos of Cine Opera are by photographer Olivia Vivanco


A couple of links that deal with preservation of historic movie houses in San Francisco:

Save the Harding

Friends of 1800


  1. Im proud about this project,my friend (Sabina Vinyl) has made Possible this project.
    congratulations to her.


  2. Hi.

    Great text, thanks a lot for including our pictures and information about Proyecto Óxido.

    I just wan to make a clarification: we didn´t show the documentary of Mireia Sellarés, we just documented her project and the installation, and wrote about it, but "Las Muertes Chiquitas" was projected at the Ópera thanks to institutional support in wich we had nothing to do.

    Great blog, with a great name. We love "enchiladas"!