City of Manila

Reminiscing the cinematic glitter: the old movie theaters of downtown Manila (Part V: the theaters north of Recto)

As was noted in the previous installment of this series, Rizal Avenue or Avenida was once Manila’s movie theater lane that ran from Blumentritt to what is now Plaza Lacson (Plaza Goiti in the olden days) In contrast however to the movie theaters found at the south of the intersection of Rizal and Recto Avenues, the movie theaters north of that intersection are not as well-known. Nevertheless, they contributed to what was once a lively entertainment scene in that part of the city once before.

North Avenida theaters

On the northbound side of Avenida just near Odeon and a bus terminal stood two movie theaters which were Capri and Roxan, both now closed though the building structures still remain.

the former Capri Theater
the former Roxan Theater

Right across them was the Art Moderne-inspired Galaxy Theater which was designed by Pablo Antonio. Unfortunately Galaxy was demolished in 2006, despite the efforts of conservationists and other groups to save it. Now a parking lot-cum-bus terminal is now situated in the former theater.

Galaxy theater circa early 2000s (taken from the web)
site of the former Galaxy Theater, 2013

A few blocks away right across Doroteo Jose was the Manila Grand Opera House. It was more than just a movie theater, as it also served as a venue for theatrical productions and live performances. A hotel that bears its name now stands in its former grounds. (a separate entry to come on this particular landmark soon)



A few blocks away near the corner of Lope De Vega Street was another Pablo Antonio-designed movie theater called Forum. Built in the 1960s, it was not only a movie theater but also served as shopping complex and office building as well. Unfortunately, the structure was badly damaged by a fire in the 1980s, leaving at least the theater component roofless to this day.


A few steps ahead, one would see what would be the funkiest movie theater building in Manila that still stands to this day: the Scala Theater. Like Forum and Galaxy, Scala was a Pablo Antonio theater as well, but unlike the two, the Scala bears a more playful design that still astounds the senses despite the fact that it no longer operating as a movie theater. Good thing that the building at least is still standing…for now at this time of posting.



Further up in Avenida, there were the movie theaters Apollo, Pearl, (I don’t know where it was located approximately) Lotus, Alegria, and Noli which was the northernmost movie theater in Manila. All of them have either disappeared or are still standing with their movie theater operations no longer running.

the former Cine Noli near Blumentritt

Before I forget, there is one theater worth mentioning which was along A. Mendoza St., the former Andalucia which runs parallel to Rizal Avenue. This is the New Love  Theater located just right across the Central Market. It is said that back in the day, it had a dancing fountain that greeted moviegoers there. In recent years, it was the movie theater component was shut down and was converted into a music bar but I think that is no longer running as well. The building and its fresco art exterior however still stands.


To be continued…

Acknowledgements to the sources as enumerated in Part I

© the Urban Roamer


  • mapusok

    there were a lot of other movie houses then, which became part of my youth, as my family were addicted to movie-watching during those times (1950s to 1980s). mention was made of roxan theater, but the author failed to mention that roxan theater was the first theater to feature an ecalator. it’s opening debut film was diamond head, a columbia pic. then there were society, main, boulevard, esquire, illusion, cine sta cruz. i saw palace and mayfair though in the maps. then who could forget the ultra elegant roman super cinerama along azcarraga cor quezon blvd. azcarrage bore may movie houses too, like royal, recto, miramar and beside it i forgot the name (was it maxim?) it was in this theater that i watched the exorcist and the beatles. farther east was another newer theater housed in the ever department store building directly facing morayta. it was in this theater where i watched the enigmatic movie “chariots of the gods” by erich von daniken, on a holy week, which the theater owner probably thought was a religious-themed movie, when it was actually a documentary on the possibility of extra-terrestrial visits to our planet earth. actually i like the movie because it stirred my curiosity on theory of alien invasion of our evolution and culture. i bought several books written by von daniken after that.

  • cineadik

    I used to watch movies along Recto Ave. , Quezon Blvd., and Avenida . During that 70’s era, there were no Malls in Manila. I seldom go to famous places like COD and Harrison Plaza , which are quite far from the place I grew up (Sampaloc). Anyway, some of my favourite movie houses are Odeon, Maxim, Miramar, Cinerama all along Recto. If I don’t have much money, I will go to Scala and Times to watch double movies. There are more movie houses along Avenida such as, Galaxy, Roxan, Lords, Vista, Dilson, Capri and Avenue. Once I watched an old movie ” the Prince and the Pauper” at Lyrics theatre. But during the construction of LRT in the early 80’s , Avenida became dark and ugly. I think people were scared to go to areas which is quite dark at night. I used to go to Good Earth Emporium during its heyday, you can even watch free clowns and magicians performing on the rooftop of that Department store. Anyway, those were the days when downtown Manila is the centre of fun and leisure.

  • FG

    Glad to have come to this by chance as i was searching for the old El Gusto Panaderia formerly located along azcarraga just a block away from the corner of Avenida Rizal. I never knew that there were many movie houses in recto that era. But for one I can speak just enough for Capri Cinema just beside Philippine Rabbit if im not mistaken and beside the first ever uniwide store. My former father was indeed the foreman when they built Capri. I even remember the unfateful “baloon-incident,” during the premiere and opening night when most of the baloons exploded. It created panic and ruined the moment. It was said that it was a sabotage masterminded by its rival cinema, the Odeon, which was Capri’s neighbor if my memory serves me right. Capri boasted of elegant lobby and sophisticated escalator not to mention the lobby’s huge and magnificent hanging lamp made of crystal like glass that emanates brilliance all over the floor. As a 5 year ild kid, i was truly amazed and in awe. Long after my father’s work in the cinema was finished they next constructed the uniwide store just beside it. Even then we would occasionally get free tickets or movie passes as they were called then. I remember that the whole nine yard sidewak of avenida was laidout in those multicolored but miniature tiles. What a wonderful memories. I could only wish to go back in time.

    • Ronald

      Just curious. Why are you looking for El Gusto? I have some old pictures of it. Our family had it until we closed down in 1989. Our ensaimadas and empanadas were best sellers.

  • Rey


    I’ve been helping out my mother find her biological father. She was given for adoption when she was an infant. She had met her biological mother twice before passing away and told her that her fathers name is Miguel, who used to be a ship captain. Most of the leads that I found were to dead end. However, what always comes to the fore was that her father used to operate/own a movie theater near Rizal Avenue called Cine Alegria. I’ve just chanced to see this article which sort off corroborated the existence of the theater. Now I guess is to find out who owned/operated it when it was still in business.


  • Leo Calimbas

    The map of theaters Noli, Lotus, Apollo, Alegria does not coincide with my memory. Lotus is almost opposite Noli theater. Then Apollo. Further down the road is Alegria. Noli and Alegria shows Tagalog movies, Lotus and Apollo shows English movies.

    There are three big movie theaters at Azcarraga and Rizal Ave. Galaxy is on one side, Odeon and Roxan on the other. I have not seen this Capri theater in 1969.

    • Leo Calimbas

      Apolo (one el) is at the SW corner of Tayuman. So in 1960’s these four are the only movie theaters along that section of Avenida Rizal. Somebody said there is a cine Manila there too. I do not know where where that one is.

  • Ben Felix

    My grandfather, Engr. Benjamin Felix Sr, was the architect and builder of namely:
    Odeon, Roxan, Roben, Remar, Diamond, Maxim, Miramar and renovated Galaxy & Quezon theatres.
    He is a humble man that do not brag his accomplishments among his peers.

  • Ronald

    Just curious. Why are you looking for El Gusto? I have some old pictures of it. Our family had it until we closed down in 1989. Our ensaimadas and empanadas were best sellers.

    • Gen Rivera

      I was wondering what happened to El Gusto. That was was my favorite place to eat then.
      Could you share some old pictures for nistalgia’s sake

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.