The other day, I wanted to go and see a movie. Luckily, there were two cinemas on the map in Avenida José Joacquim Seabra, right around the corner from where I live in Salvador, Bahia, Brazil.
The Cine Teatro Jandaia was closer, so I stopped there first. It’s a huge block of concrete, with a curious mix of fascist-brutalist and art déco style.
But it didn’t look very open. Or actually, it looked too open, for many of the windows were broken, half of the roof had collapsed and trees were growing inside of the building. Mind you, this is in a very busy and active shopping street, not in some deserted part of town.
Through the windows, I could get a glimpse of the grandeur that this cinema used to display. For example this large rosette on the ceiling:
I had already become less interested in watching a movie than in the history of the Cine Teatro Jandaia itself.
But there was one more cinema in the same road, the Tupy, and maybe it would be open. At first sight, it didn’t look too promising either. The choice of colors and the typeface looked like 1950s/1960s. But then, the door was open and the sign promised “two films every day”, adding – in smaller print – “erotic ones”. That was not what I had come looking for.
Although the door was open, I thought that this porn cinema must have been put out of business by the internet. The ticket office didn’t look very active. But then I saw the note posted to the left of the small window, announcing that from 1 December 2015 the price for a ticket would be “readjusted” to 8 reals (= 2 USD). So, this place was still in business, and as I had become more curious about the cinema itself, I thought for a moment: “What the heck, 2 dollars for the crazy experience of sitting in a porn theater from the 1950s with some Brazilian guys (or alone) and watching a film in Portuguese (maybe also from the 1950s) is worth it.”
But nobody sat behind the window. There was no note announcing the times of the two daily shows (lousy marketing). And probably, I would have been to shy anyway.
Instead, I went home to research the story of the two cinemas. The Tupy had indeed opened in 1956 and hadn’t changed much, except that the small letters announcing the “erotic” content were a recent addition. In their place, it used to say “explicit sex” in large letters.
Well, maybe it has become less explicit over time.
The Cine Teatro Jandaia is even older. First opened in 1910 and rebuilt in 1931, it was operated by different companies, but the last owner showed double features of porn and martial arts. The kind of cinema where Quentin Tarantino would hang out at. It closed in 1993, too early to blame the internet for it.
I found some magnificent photos from the inside of this theater and one from its glory days:
Only one screen, but 2,100 seats. The exact opposite of today’s multiplex cinemas. And possibly the reason it didn’t survive.