A tour through the historical cinemas of Lavapiés

Neighborhood cinemas where people spent four hours watching two movies for five pesetas! or where you could find out how things were going in Spain and the world through NO-DO.

Surely you have heard our elders or people from the world of cinema and theater talk about the "continuous session cinemas"; about those times when going to the movies was an adventure that was hard to say no to, cinemas where people spent four hours watching two movies for five pesetas! or where you could find out how things were going in Spain and the world through NO-DO. 

These cinemas were so called because they played two movies, one after the other with a short break of 10 to 15 minutes between them. 

During that break, people would go out into the hallway to smoke, go to the bathroom or take the opportunity to go down to the bar for a soft drink; while in the living room, a boy would walk around with a wooden tray hanging around his neck shouting, "There's pipes, candy, chewing gum!"

In the late 50's and early 60's, films were classified by age with a letter and/or a number. The Classification Board, in which the Catholic priests were in charge of the classification: "A" meant authorized for all audiences, "2" was first used to indicate that the film was for those over 16 years of age, and then it was lowered to 14 years of age. The "3" was used to classify films for those over 18 years of age, and finally the "4" indicated that the film was seriously dangerous.

These classifications were respected in premiere and re-release cinemas, but not in neighborhood cinemas. In Lavapiés both coexisted and shared the same objective: to brighten up the evenings of the neighborhood's residents and shopkeepers. These are the most outstanding ones, press play!

Doré Cinema

Before the Cine Doré was built, many films had already been projected in Madrid. The first projection was in 1896, in a local located in Carrera de San Jerónimo, 32. Two plaques on the facade remind us of it. At that time, 15-minute sessions were projected and the Lumière brothers were responsible for them.

In later years, improvised premises were used to project films. With the success of the cinematograph, the premises were improved, until they began to build rooms dedicated to the projection as the Doré Hall, built in 1912 in the same location as the current one, on Santa Isabel Street and had a capacity of 1,250 spectators.

But it was not until 1923 when the building we know today as Cine Doré was built. The success of that cinema was enormous and soon the theater was improved with boxes and ornaments. However, over time it lost its splendor and became a neighborhood cinema, known as the Palacio de las Pipas. Its decline was accentuated until 1963 when it closed its doors. For two decades it remained closed and unused.

In 1982 the City Council bought the Cine Doré as a building of architectural and environmental interest and since 1989 it has been one of the headquarters of the Filmoteca Española.

Toledo Cinema

The Toledo Cinema was located at 86 Toledo Street. It was a huge theater with stalls and mezzanine, and had a capacity of 925-930 seats.

Hardly anything remains of what it was. In the 70's it became a "Latin-club" for discotheques and for celebrations such as weddings, baptisms and communions; and today the Discoteca Shoko is installed. Looking at its outline we can still imagine the glorious times of the cinema...

La Encomienda and the Odeon Cinema

Continuing towards Plaza del Cascorro, we arrive at Embajadores street. The first street on the left is Calle de la Encomienda. And there, at number 16, there was the first cinema opened in 1912, which was called: de la Encomienda.
Artists such as Luis Esteso, Raquel Meller or Edmond de Bries, one of the pioneers of transformism in Spain, debuted there. This theater underwent numerous transformations until it was demolished in the forties; and from a wooden hut it became a stable cinema, baptized with the name of Odeon and inaugurated on March 10, 1951.

The films were announced on a blackboard, and by the meters they had we calculated how long they were going to last.

The Odeon Cinema, with a continuous session and screenings starting at five o'clock in the afternoon, could be entered through Juanelo or Encomienda. Some neighbors like Víctor González remember it "as a garage; it had wooden benches without backrests, and on one side there were pipe stands. The movies were advertised on a blackboard, and by the meters they had we calculated how long they were going to last".

It later became a television set (Odeon Studios); and four years ago it was demolished to build a hostel.

San Cayetano Cinema

Going down Embajadores street, at the height of nº 40 we find that the sidewalk makes a recess. There, for many years was the San Cayetano Cinema that took its name from the parish that is located above.
San Cayetano was another great cinema of continuous session and of which many neighbors remember the long lines that on Saturdays used to form at about half past three in the afternoon, to get the ticket for the four o'clock session.

Olimpia Cinema

Further down, in the Plaza de Lavapiés was the Olimpia, a cinema that had been born as a theater in the late nineteenth century and possibly the oldest of those still operating in Madrid when it was demolished in 1993 to build the new Valle Inclán theater.

It was built as a theater at the end of the 19th century, and in 1904 it was converted into a movie theater. More than 70 years later, in 1978, it was again used as a theater. 

The Olimpia Cinema had a large seating area, with a mezzanine, a row of closed boxes on each side and a lot attached to the building, where open-air movies were shown years ago.

Pavón Cinema

Going back up Embajadores, at number 11 was the Pavón Cinema, a neighborhood cinema. It opened its doors in 1925 with the attendance of King Alfonso XIII, in a building with three floors and crowned with an advertising tower emblematic of the theaters. Its capacity was 1800, distributed in patio, mezzanine and boxes; although it was reduced over the years.

In 1953 it was converted into the theater we know today.

Cinematograph of La Latina

On January 18 last year, the current La Latina theater turned one hundred years old. But a decade before its opening there was already a theater with the same name.

The Cinematógrafo de La Latina began as a cinema in 1904, after the demolition of the Hospital de la Concepción de Nuestra Señora, built in 1499. It appeared in the middle of the cinema fever and others were opened in the surroundings of the Rastro, such as Duque de Alba, Encomienda, Ave María and Torrecilla del Leal.

It later became the now century-old theater, although with the advent of sound films it was converted back into a movie theater in the 1930s, including the Civil War, and in the difficult years that followed until 1945, when it again became a theater.

This century-old theater was the temple where the great Lina Morgan, the owner of the theater since 1978 and muse of the neighborhood, could be seen performing for so many years.

Lavapiés and El Molino Rojo movie theaters

The Lavapiés Cinema was located on Mesón de Paredes Street, on the corner of Tribulete Street, in what was previously a fronton. Its ceiling was covered with a stucco fan on which Goyaesque motifs were painted.

In the basement there was "the Madrid with a password": the well-known nightclub El Molino Rojo. There coexisted the insinuation with the flamenco party, the casticismo with the foreign and the traditional side of the shows with the rock confined to the catacombs; and came to have its own film, starring Marisol in 1973.
This theater closed in 1983, ten years before the demolition of the building, on which the current Universidad a Distancia was built.

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