Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Old Cinemas

If you follow our photos on flickr then you know that we are into 20th Century Modern Architecture especially Art Deco and Art Moderne. We make a point of seeking out this type of building in our travels and were pleasantly surprised during our 2008/2009 travels in Myanmar (Burma) and India to find quite a number of Art Deco and Art Moderne cinemas.

Some of the Art Deco cinemas in India are well known like The Eros in Mumbai and The Metro in Calcutta and easy to find. But there are many, many older cinemas in India and it's quite likely to run into a gem anywhere. In Burma, it was quite a thrill to come across older cinema in cities which are off the beaten track like Bhamo and Myitkyina. And in Yangon, many of the cinemas have large hand-painted posters.

We find these old cinemas interesting in several ways. First, the beauty of the Art Deco/Moderne stylings. Some are genuine pieces from the heydays of the 1930's and 1940's when both Deco/Moderne architecture and "talking pictures" were symbols of 20th Century modernism and progress. Others are from the post war 1950's and have an International, Tropical or Socialist flavor.

Second, the degree of upkeep of the building sometimes gives a glimpse into local culture and history. Some cinemas are well kept with minimal changes to the original design. Others are sparkling new and renovated to a degree that they have lost their charm. And some are run-down and covered with billboards, some are closed. Each one tells a story.

Third, with the consent of friendly workers we sometimes get a look into the cinema hall which can be a walk back in time to the era of ceiling fans, balconies, and ancient projectors.

I've put together a set of photos on flickr that has most of the old cinemas we saw in 2008 and 2009. Most are from India and Myanmar but there are a few from Laos as well.

The Eros Cinema in Mumbai.
Eros Cinema - Mumbai, India

The Metro Cinema in Calcutta (showing Slumdog Millionaire).
Metro Cinema - Kolkata (Calcutta), India

The striking Bayint Cinema in Mawlamyine, Burma.
Bayint Cinema - Mawlamyine, Myanmar Burma

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