When the Aranetas first got hold in 1952 of what was then a wide empty tract of land along what was then known as Highway 54, (that’s EDSA as it was called before) they envisioned the place what was soon to be known as Araneta Center as a premier entertainment hub to compliment/rival the old Downtown Manila area which by that time was already getting too crowded for comfort, so to speak. It would not be until the mid 1960’s when the entertainment scene in Cubao began to boom. As with the rise of the department stores, movie houses in and around Cubao began to mushroom. From then until the 1990’s, Cubao was one of the top places people go to for worthwhile movie entertainment, with so many movie houses one can go to, as you can see on this map below.
The first movie theater to rise in Cubao is the New Frontier Cinema and Theater, touted back then as the largest theater in the country with its capacity capable of holding up to 3,500. (so it’s said on this old press release) Until the 1990’s it was the premiere theater of Cubao and was one of the few movie theaters that have their own driveway. As the case of many other movie theaters in the metropolis, its old prestige eventually disappeared in the midst of the advent of home entertainment and multiplexed moviehouses found in the booming shopping mall complexes, leading to its closure by the 19o0’s.
The building and the iconic signage are still intact though, perhaps awaiting the day it will be reborn. The Aranetas made known before its plans to renovate and reopen New Frontier, but like many other planned projects in Cubao by the Aranetas (I’m looking at you Gateway Tower and Novotel) any actual development to make these plans happen still remain a pipe dream at this time of writing. Knowing the reputation of the Aranetas, it’s best not to hold one’s breath in hoping for things to happen in this part of town.
Right next door was the second movie house to rise: Nation Cinerama, which boasted of showing films in the old Cinerama format, the niche movie format during the 1960’s in the same way IMAX is today. Unfortunately, the Cinerama format began to fizzle out by the early 1970’s which spelled the demise of Nation Cinerama as well. It eventually became a lagoon park of sorts before it gave way to a 3-towered condominium complex as part of the planned Manhattan Garden City.
Then there’s the case of two movie theaters located along opposite ends of Gen. Roxas Ave.: Quezon Theater located on the western end and Cinema 21 on the east right across Nation Cinerama. While they are no serving their functions as movie houses, these theaters have been reused as another type of house: houses of worship of 2 different Christian denominations.
There’s another smaller theater located along this road, Sampaguita Theater which has now been converted to be part of the Eurotel hotel branch in the area.
Another movie theater that was a landmark itself in Cubao was ACT Theater. Being located in the intersection of busy Aurora Blvd. and EDSA, it’s hard to miss this large structure. Nowadays it’s a site of a second-hand goods store and the facade which used to hold posters of movies being shown in the theater are now used as ad space.
Right next door to it is the smaller Ocean Theater, now also a closed movie theater and has been recently sold to Eurotel through an auction, interesting tidbit considering Eurotel’s current presence in Cubao was once, as we mentioned earlier, a former movie theater.
Along Aurora Blvd. right across what is now Gateway Mall was the old Diamond Theater which is now converted into an arcade shopping complex which boasts a connection to the Line 2 mass transit system.
Moving along Aurora Blvd. is Remar Theater, one of the two surviving traditional movie theaters in Cubao and one of the few traditional movie theaters that still manage to show first-run movies (movies that have just been released) though it’s not drawing the crowds as it used to, not to mention its current surroundings are not what some might consider as a good one.
This is in contrast to the fate of Alta Cinema located on the farther end of Aurora Blvd. which is managing to survive by showing second-run films, mostly of the R-rated genre, not to mention becoming infamous as a den for prostitution. Unfortunately, the fate today of Alta Cinema is a common fate of many movie theaters in the metropolis that have managed to survive today.
In the area in the middle of Remar and Alta along Aurora Blvd. is the old Coronet Theater, which closed down its theater operations by the turn of the 21st century as well. Much of its old space has now given way to some businesses who have set up shop in the old theater. One particular business that’s set up in the premises of this theater has been there since 1978 and is somehow giving some sense of immortality of Coronet. It is here where a business that would become a future Filipino icon made its humble start.
Acknowledgements to Video48 for the additional information
© The Urban Roamer