Goodbye to the “The Darkened Room” / Fernando Damaso

Fernando Damaso, 18 June 2015 — I have written different posts and articles on the issue of movie theaters and the loss of them in the city of Havana. I return to it again now, motivated by a report on the current situation in the country, which appeared in the newspaper “Granma,” although in these lines I will only refer to those in the capital.

According to the official interviewed, the head of the Provincial Department of Cinema in Havana, “The city came to have 159 movie theaters, of which 42 remain, 13 of these are open and 29 are closed. Eight of the open ones have construction problems, and the 29 closed ones will be transferred to cultural institutions because they are not going to be used as movie theaters… Under a policy of the Ministry of Culture,” according to the official, “only 13 movie theaters will remain.”

The ordeal of the movie theaters started when they were expropriated from their owners and transferred to administrators at the Institute of Cinematographic Art and Industry (ICAIC), which, although it tried to maintain them in good condition, didn’t have the resources to do so.

However, the finishing blow came when, in 1976, they were transferred to the administration of the organs of People’s Power. Suffice it to say that in 1980 the last five-year plan for maintenance and construction was undertaken, a whopping 35 years ago. Starting then, apathy took hold of them, condemning them to their rapid disappearance.

Thirteen movie theaters is a ridiculously low number for a city with more than two million inhabitants and still more ridiculous is the Ministry of Culture assuming the right to decide that in the city there are only these, a bureaucratic decision taken, as usual, without considering the opinions of the affected citizens.

Now, according to the official, the ICAIC concerns itself with the movie theaters of the so-called Project 23 — 12 y 23, Chaplin, Riviera, Yara, La Rampa, and the multiplex Infanta –and the People’s Power is in charge of the rest, this latter with a budget of 313,100 CUP (Cuban pesos, about $12,500 US), for their repair and maintenance, which is insufficient.

Of these, the Riviera, of Project 23, is closed for repairs, and the Acapulco, belonging to the People’s Power, is closed for technical problems, according to a sign that has been posted for some time in the box office.

Everything points to the passing away of the golden era when movie theaters abounded in the city, and even in the neighborhoods and areas most distant from the center. Now you can look for movies on TV, in the “weekly packet” or on DVDs bought from the self-employed, and forget about “the darkened room” and what it represented for many generations of Cubans!