Edison Theater (Jerusalem)

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Edison Theater was a theater for movies and silent films in the Zichron Moshe neighborhood of Jerusalem. It opened in 1932 and ceased operating in 1995. The building was destroyed in 2006, and now a housing complex for the Haredi population is being built on the site.


Edison Theater was the third theater to be built in Jerusalem. It was noted for its modern architecture, immense dimensions, and for being the first theater in Jerusalem to possess air conditioning. The theater was named after Thomas Edison, inventor of the motion picture. In addition to movies, it hosted many live performers including Yves Montand, and was the venue for concerts of the pre-state Philharmonic Orchestra.[1]

The theater's location at the junction between religious and secular Jewish neighborhoods in Jerusalem led to a high degree of controversy over the years. In 1931, an "anti-Shabbat-violation" agreement was signed between the management of Edison and the two other theaters; it was agreed that violation of the agreement would incur a fine of 300 Israeli liras (of them, 150 would go to the Diskin Orphanage, and 75 to each of the other theaters). After the theater became highly successful, however, it was decided to advance the sale of tickets to Shabbat, even though the movie itself would only start after Shabbat. This caused a strong reaction in the neighboring Haredi community, led by Amram Blau (a founder of the Neturei Karta group), who attempted to prevent the sale of tickets on Shabbat. The theater was twice the target of arson (in 1965 and 1975), causing heavy damage.

The theater finally closed in 1995 and remained abandoned for a number of years. Though the neighborhood of the theater had become almost exclusively Haredi, the owner refused for various reasons to sell the theater building to them. In 2006, however, the site was sold to a group of Satmar Hasidim, spearheaded by satmar hasidic businessmen from America, who completed construction of the 60+ Housing complex in February 2014. This outcome has been seen by Satmar and the local neighborhood residents as a victory in their fight for the "holiness of Jerusalem".