City of Manila

Reminiscing the cinematic glitter: the old movie theaters of downtown Manila (Part IV: at Avenida south of Recto)

If New York City has a Broadway and its stretch of theaters, Manila had (take note foks, it’s “had”) Rizal Avenue or Avenida Rizal (nicknamed Avenida) with its strip of movie theaters. It was also a pretty long strip that ran from Blumentritt up north all the way down to Plaza Lacson. (or Plaza Goiti as it was called in the old days) One can imagine what the avenue looked like in its heyday, seeing a long stretch of neon signs, especially of movie theaters that lighted up the way. Being the movie theater hub of Manila back then, Avenida was also home to some of the most prominent movie theater structures one can find in the city, designed by some of the country’s most renowned architects of that period.

One of those prominent theaters was Avenue, designed by National Artist Juan Nakpil in the 1930s. This art deco theater used to be the exclusive home for films of Paramount Pictures. After falling into hard times in recent years, the theater was demolished in 2006 to give way to a parking lot cum bar and commercial space, something that has been met with public outcry and condemnation.

Avenue Theater circa early 2000s (photo courtesy of
the site of the former Avenue Theater, 2013

A few steps ahead is the twin movie theaters of Lords and Jennet. The theaters actually occupy one building, and as far as age is concerned they are the youngest among the Avenida movie theaters as they were opened in the 1960s. Today, Jennet’s movie theater operations are now closed while Lords is still in operation, making Lords the only movie theater in the Avenida area that is still in business to this day.

A couple of blocks away is Universal Theater, I don’t know if it was coincidence or not but in its heyday, it is said it exclusively screened films by Universal Pictures. Today, it has been converted into some casino. Nearby was the former Dalisay Theater which was the exclusive home of LVN films. From what I can gather, my guess is that part of the current building where a Puregold branch operates was where Dalisay was, though I’m not exactly sure.

approximate former location of Dalisay

Crossing the former Raon street on the opposite side, stood another Juan Nakpil- designed theater, the Ever Theater. This art deco-inspired theater was the exclusive home of 20th Century-Fox films and was one of the first ventures of the Rufino family, who went on to make a name for themselves in the real estate, among other businesses. One of the best theaters in the city in its time, (renowned architect Walter Gropius even commended it for its “outstanding qualities”) it fell into hard times like many other theaters in the area. Eventually, the theater operations were shut down and the building was converted into a commercial arcade first, then eventually a budget hotel, with the building now wrapped in some garish, fancy exterior.

Ever Theater circa early 2000s (photo courtesy of ManilaHub)
former Ever Theater now a hotel, 2013

Nearby was the former State Theater, another Nakpil-designed art-deco theater built in the 1930s. It had a beautifully-designed façade that was landmark in its time. After a number of renovations over the years, it was finally demolished to give way to yet another commercial retail building in the area.

State Theater, 1945 (photo courtesy of John Tewell on Flickr)
site of the former State Theater, 2013

Right across it was a Pablo Antonio-designed movie theater, the Ideal. Built in the 1930s, this was the exclusive home for MGM films, which during the time was the biggest film producer in the US. But like the fate of MGM, Ideal fell into hard times, until the theater was demolished in the 1970s to give way to a commercial building that is part of Good Earth Plaza now.

Ideal Theater, circa 1940s (photo courtesy of
part of the commercial complex that now occupies the former Ideal Theater, 2013

To be continued…

Acknowledgements to the sources as were mentioned in Part 1, as well as to Video48,, The Filipinas, ManilaHub.


The rest of the series can be accessed here: Downtown Manila movie theaters


© The Urban Roamer

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