In 1895, moviemaking made its way to Barcelona when the city hosted the first Spanish film exhibition. Within the next twenty years, Barcelona would become the center of Spain’s growing film industry until the outbreak of the Spanish Civil War. After the war, cinema, censored or not, continued to flourish in the city’s various theatres and continues to do so today, even as commercialization swamps the entire business. A few movie theatres still exist in Barcelona, and we’ve rounded up a few that show pictures from decades past for nostalgic cinephiles and contemporary film lovers alike.
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Named after the godfather of global cinema, the Frenchman George Méliès, Cines Méliès opened in 1996. Today it continues in its devotion to showing classic contemporary cinema and that of past decades, making it a staple of independent cinema operations. It was founded by writer, director, film critic, and historian Carles Balagué i Mazón, who previously served as head of the College of Film Directors of Catalonia. Despite the setback when a fire damaged the theatre in 2011, it was repaired, restored, and listed in the International Confederation of Cinemas of Art and Essay (CICAE) and the Europa Cinemas network. It’s a traditional type of theater, built within the old Barcelona architecture and it mixes in new movies with some of the past.
Address: Calle Villarroel, 102
The history of Cines Verdi goes back to the late 1920s when its previous occupant, the Ateneo Cine Lounge, first showed movies in the area. It was revived in its current form in 1983, starting with one screen and expanding to its five-room incorporation. It did not conform to the commercial side of cinema and has since been a forum for all forms of films and a fellow independent theatre with the Méliès. Plus, those who buy the Amics del Verdi card will have the benefits of discount entries, exclusive previews of upcoming releases, and free entrance to special events. All of which costs just €30 annually.
Address: C / Verdi, 32
Established in 1945, Cinema Maldà is located within the Palau Maldà, a 17th-century residence where the aristocratic Baron de Malda family once lived. Salvador de Vilallonga de Càrcer, who was 7th Baron de Malda in 1945, became a local philanthropist for his support of the arts including cinema. He decided to convert the Palace into multiple rooms to host art galleries, local concerts, and the movie theatre that still exists to this day. Despite its brief closure in the mid-2000s, it was reopened to show original 35mm print (not digital) movies and continues to offer various features in this form.
Address: Carrer del Pi, 5
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Filmoteca de Catalunya
The Filmoteca de Catalunya, as its name states, is the region’s library for its history of films. Their current headquarters was opened in 2012, but the archive was first opened in 1963 as a Spanish sector for its film catalog (about 23,500 films and counting) before being transferred to the region’s own system in 1981. Today, many movies are showcased with special viewings in the building. It promotes films in Catalan and works daily to restore and fix damaged reels at their Centre for Conservation and Restoration. This includes a collection of surviving movie cameras from the 1920s, 170,000 film reels, ( including historical footage from the Civil War) and the 40,000 documents in permits, screenplays, and photographs from the sets during production. In 2013, the Filmoteca held the International Federation of Film Archives’ annual International Congress, which was attended by over 300 members from 60 countries.
Address: Plaça Salvador Seguí, 1 – 9
Barcelona takes its own cinephilia seriously with preserving historic theatres in the face of commercialization, playing movies the way they were meant to be played. Its massive historical archive and the independent small theatres all tell a story in the history of Spanish film. Within a city steeped in history, the movie business in Barcelona is on full throttle.
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