It’s hard for modern-day film nerds not to feel like they were born in the wrong half of the century every once in a while. While we watch Netflix on our iPads or wait in line at some corporate multiplex for the latest cookie-cutter superhero flick, filmgoers just 50 years ago were treated to an immersive aesthetic experience at the grandiose movie palaces that once dotted urban landscapes. There was a time when movie theaters were like modern-day temples to the seventh art, designed by some of the world’s greatest living architects and imbued with a glamour that gave the theatergoing experience an air of aristocratic pageantry.
Like all the great cities of the world, Mexico City was once filled with these spectacular theaters. From Insurgentes to Eje 1, the 1940s saw a boom in the construction of these palaces, which made an indelible imprint on the D.F. cityscape – even if many were eventually lost to misguided urban planning, fires, or the massive 1985 earthquake that tragically leveled much of the city’s architectural heritage.
A short video from the series La Ciudad de México en el Tiempo, from the nation’s educational TV network Canal 11, takes viewers on a guided tour through some of the city’s more memorable movie palaces, showcasing majestic buildings with wistful names like Cine Encanto, Bella Época, or the extravagant, East Asian-themed Cine Chino. While few of these cinemas still function today, it’s a nostalgic reminder of the rich history and architectural beauty of Latin America’s largest city.
With recently successful restoration projects at a handful of Brooklyn movie palaces bringing some old world elegance back to Kings County, we can only hope developers south of the border will catch a hint and give these grand buildings a second life.