Quezon City

reminiscing Cubao and its old movie theaters

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 Urban Roamer’s old Cubao map

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.

the old Nation Cinerama now the site of soon-to-rise Manhattan Parkview Residences of 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.

the former Quezon Theater
the former Cinema 21

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

23 Comments

  • Phil

    Hi! Just reading your article on old movie theater in Cubao. Grew up there, I probably have been in those theaters at least once. I’m living in the USA now, haven’t been back for 11 years now. NO matter how bad our country may seem, you still miss the place where you grew up. Your article brought back some good old teenage memories.

    Thanks.

  • Jason

    Wow! Another reminiscing topic… Me and my family used to watch some movies on those cinemas when I was a kid and I really miss those beautiful times. Specially those famous Tagalog movies during the 80’s to mid 90’s. 😀

  • Oyeenie

    You forgot the Maya Theatre Arcade in between Baliwag Transit (near New York St) and Five Star bus terminals along EDSA, Cubao (which was usually jampacked when an FPJ movie or a Sharon Cuneta movie was being shown). This theatre was eventually left out especially when Araneta developed the Farmer’s area so the owners had to convert it to an office/commercial building to maintain it. It now houses the newly built and quaint New York Hotel, a Seven Eleven, a Dunkin Donuts outlet, a Pan de Pidro outlet, a Pao Express outlet and Montessori school. Check it out!

  • natzsm – Makati City, Philippines – Loves cooking, baking, computers, music and movies.

    natzsm

    My fondest memories of the New Frontier Theater was watching BIG cinema releases like The Ten Commandments. I was also able to watch my first 3D movies back in the late seventies-early early eighties, the glasses made of card board.

  • eklavumer – pleasant village, los banos, laguna philippines

    eklavumer

    … THERE was also a theater fronting a little before nepa-q mart. it was transformed into a bowling alley in the 80s… oh memories! i lived in chicago st for the longest time!

  • amikvs – From a nobody >> accountant >> programmer >> web developer >> web designer >> graphic designer >> blogger >> writer >> alien >> spirit

    yton

    Good post! Wish somebody could share old photos of these theaters especially those of good old architecture. Allow me to reminisce some old theaters in Makati. First was Rizal Theater that only screened Hollywood movies for the reason that the community near its perimeter were mostly foreigners. If it was going to screen a Filipino movie, it must be a Dolphy movie. Quad Cinemas which I think the first quadruplet cinema in the Philippines. It is now where Glorietta stands. When the Rufino’s contract with Ayala was not renewed, the Rufino’s built Makati Cinema Square. And perhaps unknown to many, in the town proper of Makati (which was part of Rizal Province then), there were Lola and Rey Theaters that showed second-run double movies. And believe it or not, the first movie I saw at Lola when I was a kid was “One Million ACDC” — a rated R foreign movie about the savage life of the early people of earth when dressing up was optional.

    • urban roamer – I have nothing much to say, I'm the quiet one...which may be why I wander, write, take photographs, and get into social media too much

      urban roamer

      sorry…what Grand Theater?

    • Michael J. Fast – Roque St, Quezon City, Philippines – Michael is actively involved in transforming South East Asian nations with the Good News of Jesus Christ.

      Michael

      Sorry to revive an old thread but the former Grand Theatre is located just north of the vacant lot at the corner of EDSA and Aurora (right side going Monumento). In 1984 it was purchased by the Metro Manila Bible Community and has been converted into a church.

  • reminiscing

    Reminiscing… its diff from what today despite of progress in the area but now a center of crimes, dense, prosti, traffic, pollution etc. But hopefully our local officials did their best to improve the area even the old structure started to disappear. Thanks for the post. And aside cubao, please also add to your article the fate of recto, malate and other parts of Manila city which most of old bldgs there begins to disappear.

  • jimjones

    Grannd Theaetr was along EDSA very near the Maya cinema. The cinema house near Nepa Qmart was the Cubao cinema which was later converted into a bowling alley. Another cinema house in old Cubao is the Cinema ABCD, which near ALTA and the Mercury Drug along Aurora Blvd.

  • renpil

    Kakapunta ko lang dyan sa Remar, maliit lang pala ang nasa loob nyan, makipot.Ang ginagamit nilang projector yung bago na, yung pang computer.hindi na yung traditional.Saklap nga e ang palabas pala pambakla pero first run in movie sya na indie film at may mga gay din sa loob.Basta ako di ko sila pinapansin at diretso lang ako.

    • Michael J. Fast – Roque St, Quezon City, Philippines – Michael is actively involved in transforming South East Asian nations with the Good News of Jesus Christ.

      Michael

      It is now called the Kia Theater and I think it opened last week. The posters say that the first show will be some kind of Mickey Mouse Musical (not sure of the title) and will be 1-6 Sept.

  • son

    Yan yung place na lagi naming pinapanooran at pasyalan ng aking bf. at naging husband ko..that was yr.1975-78..halos napasok n namin ang lahat ng cinemas sa area ng Araneta lalo na pag manila film festival..sadly my husband passed away in 1986 due to fatal crashed..nasa isip at alaala ko n lang yung mga times na lagi kami dyan..nkakalungkot dahil some of the movie theatre ay nag closed na…that’s part of my teens life na d ko malilimutan..now currently lived in Canada with my son, daughter in law and grand children..

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