Movie parlors to come and go: dress as on-screen characters in Chuvashia, don-t text in Ukraine-s only spherical cinema and enjoy the wind in Kabul-s Smell-o-Vision

What is it about movie parlors that makes us turn nostalgic?

Would you cry over a movie house that kicks out patrons for texting during a show? And if I told you that this is a parlor where viewers eat only when the on-screen characters do and everyone is to dress as a particular character, and.. “cold beers are brought to your seat by black-clad waitstaff?”

Should the world’s oldest operating outdoor picture garden in Australia be preserved almost unchanged — with loos marked “Humphrey’s” and “Vivien’s” “as a nod to early Hollywood stars” — or should it be fitted with repurposed car seats à la gastropub theater in Brooklyn’s waterfront DUMBO district? For all our non-NYC cinemagoers: DUMBO stands for ‘Down Under the Manhattan Bridge Overpass.’

In this Calvert Journal pieceSergey Novikov — Cheboksary, Chuvash Republic-born photographer who self-published FC Volga United, a photobook about football fans who live along Europe’s longest and largest river in terms of discharge and watershed, the Volga — sings on ode to Russia’s dying movie houses:

With more and more cinemas in Russia losing out to multiplexes — sometimes abandoned, sometimes used for discos and fairs or taken over by Jehovah’s Witnesses

Here is where Al Jazeera’s Jane Ferguson laments that Afghanistan’s once thriving cinema industry has not returned after 2011 ousting of the Taliban:


While in this 2012 article for Asahi Shimbun, one of the five national newspapers in Japan, Kazuhisa Kurokawa announces the coming down of the curtain on a part of the cinema landscape of Tokyo “that first enraptured Japanese audiences just over a century ago.”

On Oct. 21, the lights went down in the last remaining three movie houses in Asakusa, a historic district just off the Sumida River where the nation’s first movie theater opened in 1903. The structures escaped the devastation of the Great Tokyo Air Raid of 1945 by U.S. bombers but were too old to be retrofitted to withstand a major earthquake. The theaters were operated by Chuei Co., a subsidiary of Shochiku Co.

Shochiku Co. produced films by Yasujirō Ozu, Takeshi Kitano, Akira Kurosawa and Taiwanese New Wave director Hou Hsiao-Hsien.

SHOCHIKU Co., Ltd logo
SHOCHIKU Co., Ltd logo

While the final screenings in Asakusa included Amazing Spiderman and Men in Black III, Ukraine’s budding film-maker Masksym Madonov deemed it right to bring an abandoned 1990-built cinema in his hometown of Radekhiv, Lviv Oblast back to life and make a documentary about the rare four screenings.

And as we decry the vanishing cinemas with history, we embrace all kinds of technology-packed movie houses. Here Bloomberg’s Jon Erlichman takes us on a tour of a South Korea-stemming 4DX test cinema.. with Smell-o-Vision in Hollywood, California. Full package there: moving chairs, scent, smoke, and wind.

Purpotedly the only spherical cinema in Ukraine operates under the name Atmasfera. The action takes place inside the Soviet-built Kyiv planetarium, on its dome screen.

Throughout its 90-year history, the largest cinema in northern Europe, Oslo’s Kino, “has kept up with technological advances, from pioneering Cinemascope in the 1950s to the late-1990s THX-aimed overhaul.”

Chicago’s Uptown Theater is not that up-to-date.  Once one of the largest in America, the Uptown “still stands at Broadway and Lawrence, its decaying interior like a mausoleum,” as late film criticism celebrity Roger Ebert put it.

This view of the Uptown Theatre’s auditorium mezzanine or loge seating area comes from Eric Holubow, photographer behind a cofee table book called Abandoned – America’s Vanishing Landscape.


Note the three colors of cove lighting and careful decoration of the plaster underneath the balcony and surrounding ventilation grilles. These atmospheric effects make one forget one’s troubles and that one is sitting under an immense balcony. The Uptown’s cove lighting system is controlled from a master lighting control panel on the stage. The lights were intended to help encapsulate the audience through the subtle use of changing colors. They could be preset and adjusted to fit the mood of what was being seen on the screen, watched in a live stageshow or heard from the organ and orchestra.

An abandoned movie palace hidden in the back of a Brooklyn furniture showroom... Source: AbandonedNYC
An abandoned movie palace hidden in the back of a Brooklyn furniture showroom… Source: AbandonedNYC

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