Tuesday, October 25, 2005

Faded silver screens

While having a spirited conversation about movies with a friend, we hit upon a sudden and sad realization. Not only are moviehouses getting smaller and smaller (and the cost of movie tickets rising in reverse proportion, the smaller the movie house becomes, the more expensive the price of tickets), the old movie houses are decaying and giving way to…of all possible options… churches! I don’t mean that the movie houses are being demolished to give rise to the construction of a new church. No, no, it is more literal – the movie houses themselves are converted into places of worship.

At the Olivarez Shopping Complex in Binan, for example, the moviehouses have become churches of the “Ang Dating Daan” community – yup, that’s the group best remembered for being spoofed by Brother Pete in Bubble Gang. And it is the same everywhere else – from Luzon to Mindanao. At first blush, I think it is ingenious – a movie house after all is as good a stage as any auditorium – the seating has been configured for maximum visual stimulus, the acoustics perfect, etc., etc.

One can make fun of the metaphorical implications of such transformations. Does it mean that the worship happening inside the moviehouse is also make believe? An illusion? And what if the erstwhile moviehouse has a reputation for being – ehem – a house of pleasure? Do they conduct exorcism inside the moviehouse to dilute the carnal atmosphere of the place before their worship?

But something must be said about the social and cultural implications of the general neglect of our moviehouses. Truth is, it can not be denied that many moviehouses, particularly those in old towns are national landmarks, at the very least, in terms of architecture.

In Tacloban City, for example, one such moviehouse called The Republic Theatre, has been converted into a warehouse. But I remember that this particular moviehouse had wooden sofas for seats in its balcony section. Not ordinary sofas, mind. These were intricate sofas carved out of whole timbers, with designs that were really functional and artistic. I heard that the owners of the place simply left the sofas to decay, crushed under the weight of the machines and equipment and supplies that they stocked inside the warehouse. What a waste. Another theatre, Xyrex theatre, had an imposing fa├žade with art deco architecture. This has been demolished too.

I remember the moviehouses in Avenida – those theatres with spacious lobbies and winding staircases. Today, the theatres inside malls do not offer the same experience – you just sneak inside a door and that’s it, no more stately climbing up a staircase as if entering a new world. No more ceremonies.

I understand that the reason why these moviehouses have been reduced to such dismal state is because they are losing business enterprises. Very few people watch movies inside those places anymore. Just another tragic consequence of pirating, greed, and lack of foresight.

1 comment:

WritinMan said...

A very interesting post. My hometown has a beautiful old theater—The State Theater—that was a fully functioning movie theater for years. I have great memories of going there with my parents on more than one Christmas Eve. The theater was eventually closed to regular business, but it's still used for special occasions: concerts, etc.

It's good to know that it still exists in a world of gaudy chrome and neon theaters.