Earlier this year a popular new entertainment business cropped up in Havana: 3D movies! And, as with anything new that happens in Cuba, even if it’s commonplace in much of the world, it’s taken the form of a private initiative (without official license), functioning outside the state institutions that still use obsolete equipment in their movie theaters and video stores.
The government’s reaction—always reactive to the point of reactionary—came without delay: The vice-minister of culture, the renowned censor Fernando Rojas, ruled that this was an “illegal activity” in “poor taste” since it “promotes much frivolity, mediocrity, pseudo-culture and banality” (most of the movies were comedies, horror movies, adventure movies, and children’s movies, almost always from the USA, such as Star Trek, Ice Age, and World War Z). Therefore, according to Rojas, they must be “regulated” according to “the principles of the cultural policy of the Revolution.”
In reality, the theaters were just rooms in private residences (20–100 seats) where you could book a spot in advance and choose the movie you wanted to see. They were open almost all day, with tickets priced between one and four convertible pesos (a local currency where one peso is equivalent to one dollar), and included culinary offerings like popcorn, sandwiches, and drinks. They featured 47-inch TV sets or 200-inch screens, tinted 3D glasses, 5.1 hi-fi sound systems, and air conditioning.
This technology is not available in Cuba. The tools for these theaters were bought off of the island and imported privately, with start-up costs reaching thousands of dollars. In addition, the owners ran promotional dancing, singing, costume, and stand-up comedy competitions. This was already far more than the state had to show for itself, after having ruined, for example, the hundreds of cinemas that once existed in Havana. (Today there are only around 20 working movie theaters in the city. The majority have poor facilities, look run down, and are places where sexual harassment is not uncommon.)
The totalitarian logic of control over information in Cuba once again left nothing to chance. Everything under the dictatorship. Outside the dictatorship, there is nothing.
11 November 2013