May 23, 2009

Cine Marabá: one of São Paulo’s grand old movie theaters reopens after full restoration

São Paulo is a city known for turning its back on its past and ravaging most of its architectural past. The beautiful Centro – or Old Downtown – is only a shadow of what is once was, sadly, as moneyed paulistas moved out of the beautiful marble-faced buildings and settled in newer neighbourhoods like Jardins and Itaim.

The Centro was always known, among other things, for its stunningly elegant movie theatres, where once the beau monde used to go watch movies in all their finery – jacket and tie for the men, long dresses for the gals. Then it all went downhill.

Many of these theaters dispappeared, some having been transformed into “temples” of shady religious sects. Yet there is hope. Thankfully the movie distribution company Play Arte did the ballsy move of buying the legendary Cine Marabá and restoring it to its old glory. The new Cine Marabá opens to the public next Saturday, May 30. This is a great chance to get on a subway - the Marabá is a mere 300 meters from the República station - and go see a piece of São Paulo's history come back to life.

When it opened, in 1944, it was the finest movie theater in town – and soon became one of the most popular, too. In its heyday, more than 50,000 people watched movies at the Marabá each week. The grand staircase had gilded detailing and hand rails. It was the jewel in the crown of what was once called the Cinelândia: the Centro once had a whopping 30 movie theaters.

Architect Ruy Ohtake was put in charge of the new project, which split the once gargantuan main exhibition room (with 1655 seats) into five separate rooms. Eight million reais were spent on the restoration. Original parquet floors were re-installed in the lobby, where nine coats of paint were removed from the tall columns.

You can click here to watch a video of a walk-through of the Marabá with restorer Samuel Kruchin.

A second video on the same page shows images of São Paulo’s Cinelândia in its heyday. Both videos are in Portuguese.

Photo credits: Before shot, by wilnat 57; After shot by Vidas Amargas

More on São Paulo's Centro on this blog:

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