You Know I have a nose for a good story when i find this comprehensive BIBLE:HAVANA CITY OF CINEMAS by Basel org.http://www.studio-basel.com/assets/files/files/028_HAV_21_cinema.pdf
Every year in December, the International Festival of
New Latin American Cinema takes place in Havana,
transforming it into a real City of Cinema.
Visiting Havana and its cinemas today, one gets a pretty
normal impression - at least at first glance. There are 33
cinemas running and they seem to show quite a normal
program as well.
Taking a closer look, one notices that there must be
something more to it. Firstly, all the cinemas have
only one auditorium, and quite a lot of them are huge
compared to european standards, reminding more of an
opera or concert hall than of the average cinema as we
Being aware of what’s behind the facades, one starts
to view the cinemas differently. It gets obvious that their
volumes and roofs clearly show what happens inside,
that there is a specific cinema typology that does not
appear in europe anymore.
If Cuban people are asked about the number of
cinemas in Havana, they will suggest that there were
a lot more cinemas in the city before the Revolution.
The numbers stated range from
00, making it
quite unclear how many cinemas really existed. What is
certain is that cinema has a very special place in Cuban
Wondering what happened to all these cinemas, we
went out to find them, with the help of a list dating from
We imagined many of those cinemas would have dis-
appeared over time, given the large difference between
the number of cinemas in use today and this list.
But what we found was amazing. There are cinemas
used as theaters, cinemas used for housing, cinemas
used for almost any use you can imagine. A few cine-
mas have completely disappeared, but the majority
of them is still there, still standing in almost the same
manner as they were 50 years ago.
And suddenly you find yourself scanning the city for
more of these cinema typologies, wondering if that
building with the impressive facade could have been a
cinema, or the other one with the large roof...
Havana - City of Cinema
© ETH Studio Basel
The cinemas of Havana can be seen as a mirror of
what happened in the city in the last
0 years, between
the arrival of the cinematograph and today, for both the
architectural and cultural developments of the city and
the cinemas were taking place in a parallel way.
While the construction of all those cinemas coincides
with the major city growth before
959, a national
Cuban film culture emerges only after the Revolution,
supported by the new governments concern for culture.
Historical, political and social events all had their
influences on the cinema structures and the cultural life.
On account of the extraordinary circumstances of the
Revolution that preserved a moment in time, all those
traces are still visible today.
Like everything in Havana today, the cinemas have
been adapted to the situation, making the best out of it
with available resources.
This goes for the adaptation of structures for other uses
as well as for the ways of dealing with the oversized