CubaPLUS Magazine

The first cinemas in Havana, in a bird´s flight

By: Amanda Bedia
Dec 12, 2023
The first cinemas in Havana, in a bird´s flight

On January 24, 1897, the magic of cinema arrived in Havana for the first time in the luggage of  Frenchman Gabriel Veyre, from Mexico. And so the Cubans were amazed at the discovery of the brilliant invention.

Technician of the famous Lumière brothers, in an exhibition they say at open air, located at Paseo del Prado 126, next to the Tacón theater, today the Gran Alicia Alonso Theater. Then the French traveler screened four short films: Game of Cards, The Train, The waterer and the boy and The comic hat. Shortly afterwards, Veyre himself would produce the first film made in Cuba: Fire drill, a short film with the participation of Havana firefighters.

From the beginning, Creoles were bewitched by cinema, not only as a recreation and socialization of an extroverted people, but for the artistic power of the then inexplicable image offered there. A certain consensus established from that moment on, the first cinemas were outdoors, although there are other opinions.

Perhaps the oldest known cinema of this type is the Miramar Garden, inaugurated in July 1909, in Prado and Malecón, near the famous Gazebo of the music bands, the first room of that type in Havana, a modality that would become quite popular for some time. It had a serious drawback, being outdoors, in a rainy country in summer and near a very windy area in the so-called Cuban winter.

But there were more open-air cinemas like the Royal, also in the meadow, between Souls and Virtues. Some people believe that the third among the premises dedicated to the exhibition of films at the modern dawn of the 20th century in Havana, it is not a single site, but several private houses used at that time, as an example of the early entrepreneurship shown by the Creoles, to exhibit films for a fairly affordable price. Because the definitive and at first sight love of Cubans for cinema, which every time was gaining a notable volume of spectators of all ages, it It spread throughout the country. The then sparkling or unusual stories told in a fun way, realistic or dramatic had great drawing power and, as everywhere else, At first, many unawares believed that it was a spell or art of magic. Magic.

That fascinated and promised profits, time after time. Although the appearance of cinemas did not represent a danger to the popularity of the called buffo or lyric theater that put on very popular shows in the Teatro Martí, and then in the Payret, some spaces of those important centers cultural events were also used for the exhibition of very popular films. early. It is even stated that there is evidence that from January 1, 1900 it was opened the so-called Nice cinema, in a place near the Payret theater, which would be the first of the developments in private homes to be identified and place your program at the entrance, As was the capital's custom in those times, in the portals that were lavished in the area, the ticket offices of the cinemas in question were placed, near of which there were small confectionery and light food stores. Among the cinemas born from family houses, the Esmeralda, on the Monte Causeway, which some say was created in 1908.

Now, among the places specifically conceived as cinemas, as were known later throughout the 20th century, historians place in La Havana almost by consensus at Actualidades. Located in Monserrate between Neptuno and Ánimas, it opened its doors on April 18 from 1906, with which some experts consider that it could be the cinema oldest in Latin America. Although there are others who think that the oldest was the Floredora cinema, Calzada del Cerro and Palatino, where the Maravillas cinema stands today.

Get it on Google Play