The Historical Cinemas of Florence

In this video I talk about a glorious page of Florence: the historical cinemas born along the 19th century in downtown Florence. I don’t mean the new multiplex cinemas we are use to think about when we say “Let’s go to the movies!”. I mean the many many historical cinemas of Florence.

The first one was the “Reale Cinema Lumiere”, from the name of the Lumiere brothers, first inventors of the picture house, opened in 1899 in Piazza Vittorio Emanuele. If you think you don’t know where it is, no worries, it is just Piazza della Repubblica, called “Vittorio Emanuele” in honor of the king of Italy until 1946.

The second one was the “Edison”, always in Piazza Vittorio Emanuele, it was a competitor of the Lumiere. It doesn’t exist anymore today, but there is a library with its name. Then we had the Odeon Cine-Hall, opened in 1922, the only one which is still a cinema today. It was a luxury place and if you will go to watch a movie there you will understand what I mean: golden plaster sculptures, stained-glass dome, little bronze statues, … In the ‘50s it was also a concert hall, so in vogue that in 1952 Ella Fitzgerald and Louis Armstrong played there together: I’d love to be there! In the same Piazza della Repubblica, where today there is the brand-new Hard Rock Café, once we had another symbol of Florence: the Gambrinus. It was born as a cafe for the highest Florentine society in 1894, inaugurated as a cinema in 1922. If you were born in Florence in in the ‘60s or ‘70s,  the Gambrinus billiard room was a must-place to go to spend the evening or the afternoon, depending on the age and your parents!!

Now we move to the Libraccio, in Via Panzani. We don’t want to buy a book, but just to remember the beautiful Excelsior (the last movie I watched here was “Seven years in Tibet”, a 3 hours movie sitting on uncomfortable chairs, but Brad Pitt was divine in the monk-version!).

Few steps towards the train station and we stop again, this time at the Astra Cine-hall, today changed into a conference center.

The last one we have mentioned in this video is the splendid Apollo, in Via Nazionale. It was restored in 1936 by Nello Baroni, architect of the Gruppo Toscano, a staff of young architects in charge of the construction of the train station Santa Maria Novella (in rationalist style). It had the biggest screen in town and it was really gorgeous!

So, a walk on the traces of the XIX century in Florence, because we are not only Renaissance, Botticelli, Michelangelo & Co. Florence also is something a bit more modern…

Now, lights off, silence please, and let’s get the movie started!