Art Deco theaters of Manila
Art Deco theaters of Manila are theaters constructed in the 1930s to 1950s built in Art Deco style, or a similar branch of the style like Streamline Moderne, in the Philippines. The construction of these early theaters in the City of Manila provided the venue for early forms of entertainment like bodabil, a local adaptation of vaudeville, with most eventually converting to movie theaters with the growth and popularity of Philippine cinema in the metropolis. Several theaters built within the city of Manila were designed by prominent Philippine architects, including future National Artists Juan Nakpil and Pablo Antonio. Unfortunately, some of these theaters have since been closed and several of them demolished.
Performing arts theaters
Manila Metropolitan Theater
The Manila Metropolitan Theater is located on Padre Burgos Street, Ermita district adjacent to the Mehan Garden. The theater was built in 1935 with an Art Deco design by architects Juan M. Arellano and Otillio Arellano and could accommodate as many as 1,670 people. The theater is endowed with bronze sculptures depicting female performers designed by Francesco Riccardo Monti, a stained glass mural mounted above the main audience entrance, and relief woodcarvings of Philippine plants found in the interior lobby made by Isabelo Tampingco. The theater was restored in 1978, but was again closed in 1996 due to lack support from the public and local officials. Its east wing is now used as an office space for government services.
Another architectural work by Juan Nakpil is the Avenue Theater. Located along Rizal Avenue in Santa Cruz district, the theater had a 1,000 seating capacity, with its lobby bearing a marble finish flooring. At one point, the building housed a hotel and also served as office space. In 2006, it was demolished to make way for a parking lot, as realty costs were too expensive for it to be maintained.As of 2013, this site is occupied by Padi's Point, behind to it is a parking lot.
The Bellevue Theater is one of a few classic Philippine theaters built in the '30s still running today. It is located on Pedro Gil Street (formerly Herran), in Paco district and has a total seating capacity of 600. The theater features a Neo Mudejar theme, and contains a quonset hut design, and other classic ornamentation. The theater is not currently operational and a general merchandise store occupies its first floor.As of 2013, this site is occupied by Novo Jeans and T-shirt.
Situated in Escolta Street in Binondo, the Capitol Theater was designed by Juan Nakpil, and built in 1935. With the strong presence of symmetry, geometric shapes, and the occasional presence of graceful curves, the design is strongly identified with the Art Deco visual arts design style which was very popular during the 1930s.
The most prominent elements of the façade are the reliefs of two Filipina muses done by Francesco Ricardo Monti. Symmetrically installed, the two Filipina muses are explicitly portrayed in native garb or traje de mestizas, evoking contrast between their rural representation and urbanized location. Further contrast can be found in the details of their skirts, where strong lines and soft curves are juxtaposed to depict the pleats of their terno. Both muses carry symbols strongly associated with the performing arts – the left muse carries a mask [associated with theater arts], while the right muse carries a lyre [associated with music].
The bottom of both reliefs are images of film and film reels, likewise executed symmetrically. The presence of these elements are in line with the establishment’s purpose as a cinema, and consistent with the Art Deco style which heavily favors bold geometric shapes. Concrete letters spelling the word “Capitol”, once adorned the top of the structure, but only the letters I and T are left. Additional Art Deco elements can be found in the strong geometric details of the top corners and the central iron grills which marries both straight and curved lines.
The double-balcony theatre had a total of 800 seats and was among Manila’s air-conditioned theaters. Its lobby was adorned with a mural called “Rising Philippines” created by Victorio C. Edades, Carlos V. Francisco, and Galo B. Ocampo.
Damage and Decay
It was ultimately the deterioration of the theatre business in Manila that led to the stoppage of Capitol Theater’s operations as a cinema. The construction of the Light Rail Transit (LRT) and the extensive delays prompted movie goers to prefer newly opened air –conditioned malls with newer cinemas.
The Ever Theater is located along Rizal Avenue in Santa Cruz district. The theater was also designed by Juan Nakpil and has a single screen cinema with an 800 seating capacity. It was also visited by Walter Gropius during its inauguration in the 1950s, praising the theater's outstanding qualities. Currently closed as a theater, it now serves the public as a commercial arcade.As of 2013, this site is occupied by Astrotel, a hotel.
The Gaiety Theater is located on M. H. del Pilar street in the Ermita district in the city of Manila. It was designed in the art deco style in 1935 by Juan Nakpil. As of 2014, it is dilapidated with several families living inside as caretakers.
The Ideal Theater was located at Rizal Avenue in Santa Cruz district and designed by the late architect Pablo Antonio in 1933. The theater was demolished in the late 1970s to give way to the construction of a department store. The Ideal Theater was one of the first major works of Pablo Antonio along with the buildings of Far Eastern University and Manila Polo Club.
Life Theater, now T. Villonco Building, designed by Pablo Antonio, on Quezon Boulevard, used to be one of Manila's movie houses showing only Filipino movies. It opened with Ang Maestra, starring Rosa del Rosario and Rogelio dela Rosa. For decades and decades, Life Theater along Quezon Blvd. was one of the most visited building in Manila’s busiest district, Quiapo. Erected in 1941, Life had art deco façade and interiors, in vogue at that time.
The theater was destroyed during the liberation of Manila and was rebuilt in 1946 with the modern conveniences and a seating capacity of 1,144. The rebuilt Life opened with a Hollywood movie, A Thousand and One Nights. After which English and Tagalog films were shown in Life until the mid-‘50s when it became the exclusive home of Sampaguita movies.
Life Theater was owned by Romeo Villonco, who continued the theatrical enterprise of his father, Dr. Teofilo Villonco. The Villoncos were original partners of LVN Studios, whose initials stood for De Leon, Villonco, Navoa. The family also owned Palace Theater on Ronquillo St., Quiapo.
The white façade fused art deco streamlining and neoclassicism with its scaled round columns topped by a conical finial. The theater was also adorned with aluminum buffles, consistent with its Art Deco design. Along with the Times Theater, the theater is found along Quezon Boulevard in Quiapo. It has since been converted to a shopping center.
Like other stand-alone theaters in downtown Manila, Life closed shop in the ’90s when moviegoers began trooping to the malls for shopping and entertainment. Life is now made up of booths selling cheap goods, a shadow of its old glory.
Another theater designed by Pablo Antonio was the Scala Theatre, also on Avenida Rizal in Santa Cruz. With its floors paced with tea rose marble and its curved wall ligned with glass blocks, the theater's magnificence did not last: it was closed in the '90s. The theater catered to up to 600 people for its single screen operations.As of 2013, the theater is now closed though the building structures still remain, albeit in a dire condition.
Another work of the late architect Juan Nakpil, the State Theater was on Rizal Avenue, Santa Cruz. Built in the 1930s with an art deco design, the theater was eventually closed in the 1990s, and was demolished in 2001.As of 2013, this site is occupied by Emerald Circle, a mini-mall.
The Times Theater, currently found along Quezon Boulevard, Quiapo, was designed by Architect Luis Z. Araneta. It was erected in 1939, with an Art Moderne relief. Unmaintained today, the theater is still operational, and can accommodate 800 people with its single screen operations.
- Architecture of the Philippines
- Cinema of the Philippines
- List of theaters and concert halls in Manila
- List of cinemas in Manila
- Mayuga, Sylvia L. (2011-04-11)."Art Deco: Regaining Lost Memory". GMA News Online. Retrieved on 2011-10-10.
- Cinema Treasures - Avenue Theater
- Jalbuena, Katrice (4 June 2006). "Rizal Avenue landmark gone". The Manila Times (Yehey.com). Retrieved 20 January 2009.
- Cinema Treaures - Bellevue Theater
- Cinema Treasures - Ever Theater
- Cinema Treasures - Ideal Theater
- Lico, Gerard (2008). Arkitekturang Filipino: A History of Architecture and Urbanism in the Philippines. Quezon City: The University of the Philippines Press. p. 352. ISBN 978-971-542-579-7.
- RKC (December 17, 2012). "The Glory that was Life". PhilStar.com. The Philippine Star. Retrieved June 2, 2014.
- Cinema Treasures - Life Theater
- Cinema Treasures - Scala Theatre
- Cinema Treasures - State Theater
- Cinema Treasures - Times Theater