Category: Movie Theatres

Cine Envy

As historian Megan Feeney explains, mid-20th century Havana may not only have had more movie theatre seats per capita than any major city in the hemisphere, it also had some of the most elaborate movie palaces anywhere. The greatest of them all might have been the Blanquita, which Feeney discusses in detail here. Opened by Senator Alfredo Hornedo in 1949 in the Havana suburb of Miramar, the Blanquita was billed as “the world’s largest and most modern theater,” seating nearly 7,000 patrons in air-conditioned comfort and equipped with the latest film projection technology. Little wonder that, following the revolution, the theatre was rechristened the Karl Marx. Megan Feeney holds a Ph.D. in American Studies from the University of Minnesota and is the author of the forthcoming Hollywood in Havana: Film Reception and Revolutionary Nationalism in Cuba Before 1959.

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Screen City

Screen City

In the 1940s and ’50s, Havana was a movie-mad city, reportedly boasting more movie theatres than even New York. These included countless neighborhood houses, as well as some of the most elaborate movie palaces anywhere, ranging in architectural style from the classical (the Payret; 1,800 seats) to Art Deco (the Fausto; 1,669 seats), to modernist (the Karl Marx, formerly the Blanquita: 7,000 seats). Overwhelmingly, they showed Hollywood films.

Errol Flynn’s Ghost will offer a rare glimpse of Havana’s historic movie theatres, and the fascination with American culture they once embodied.

Among our stops will be the Cine Yara (above). Originally part of the Radio Centro complex, the Yara opened in 1947 as one the earliest examples of midcentury modernist architecture on the island. The theatre was operated by Warner Bros. and known for showing films in the Cinerama widescreen format. It is still considered one of Havana’s principal movie venues.

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