The Disappearing Cinema

Partial remains of the Globe Cinema, demolished this year, 2011

It recently dawned on me that there may be only one functional cinema left in Georgetown, possibly only one left in Guyana.  While the television and computers, handheld media players and the internet have certainly impacted on how we watch our movies, the cinema has always had a big draw for people, however the cinemas in Guyana have steadily gone into disrepair and certainly some have disappeared.   While we can place a lot of blame of the modernisation of media viewing, the owners and promoters of our cinemas have to take some of the blame, even when I was much younger, and the cinemas were full of moviegoers, I remember the sordid states of the seats, the persevering smell of urine, and the sound of the rodents running around the aisles.

Starlite Cinema, Pouderoyn, West Bank Demerara. Closed and abandoned

They never did the little things that made you WANT to go to the cinema, why suffer through all that when you could wait a few months and see it in the comfort of your home?  It was the experience, it was the “event” of going to the cinema with family or friends to watch a new (or old) movie in the company of others there to enjoy the experience, the camaraderie, the joy of the big silver screen, unfortunately the experience was not always a good one.  And the cinemas are disappearing, one by one, by one…

The Astor Cinema, still functional as of this year, but attendance makes it hard for the proprietor to keep it up.

I was re-reading an article written by Godfrey Chin on the Rise and Fall of Guyana’s Cinemas, I believe this was part of his “Nostalgias”, and while I am not old enough to know of some of the cinemas or even the movies he mentions, it hits home.  He, of course, goes back to even before we gained our Independence, back to the days of British Guiana, and he brings us into the modern era, where instead of Cinemas modernising to keep up, they just kept going, stagnated in time, except for the titles of the movie releases 🙂

What prompted this blog-post was the sudden nostalgia I got (I am probably getting like Godfrey) when I was processing a photo I took of the partly demolished “Globe Cinema” and an image of the abandoned Starlite Cinema.  Both of those images are included in this post.  As the Astor is the last remaining cinema, I think that I should make an effort to get permission to do some photography in that establishment before it too disappears.

Formerly the Strand Cinema, now the Universal Church of the Kingdom of God

There are at least two other Cinemas that I know of which have been converted into places of worship, it seems to be the thing to do  🙂

Click on each image to see them larger in their respective galleries.

15 thoughts on “The Disappearing Cinema

  1. With the way Guyanese are starved for entertainment (have a look at any Main St. Lime, any GuyExpo, any Saturday or Sunday at the seawall, any concert, etc) I find it hard to believe that a decent cinema couldn’t make a go at it here.

    I think if they had made some effort to keep up with the times they would not have perished. Unfortunately, it is typical of Guyanese businessmen to want to squeeze blood out of a stone, investing and improving is for when they expatriate the cash out to Miami or wherever they have their real homes.

  2. Scheme

    Nice pics and commentary Mike. I remember being in packed crowds pushing and shoving with the parents to get into Liberty cinema when I was much much younger. You and I and some of the others did go to some movies at Strand, or Globe, or both, or Kingdom of God or whatever it is now.

    1. Thanks Scheme! I remember the lines to get tickets, the pushing and jostling to get up the stairs, the scalpers outside selling tickets at higher prices, and the feeling of a packed cinema at a show, even though the seats were falling apart and the aisles were littered. 🙂 Ah, the memories 🙂

  3. cecil beharry

    Hi Michael. I have wonderful memories of going to the cinemas in Georgetown and Kitty. I agree with you that they contributed greatly to their demiise. However, I am convinced that there is great need for a multiplex cinema w/adequate parking in Georgetown, I do not believe it will happen though, as my countrymen seem only interested in get rich quick schemes. The presence of a very nice cinema is also in my mind a representation of the quality of the city. Regards. Cecil

    1. Thanks Cecil, The investment in something like a multiplex would be enormous by Guyanese standards, and parking? No one usually thinks about parking when they build these days, the last time I saw with that foresight was Buddy Shivraj at his “Hotel” and the “Pool Hall:, and then there was the DSL stores 🙂 Someone once mentioned that City Mall was planning a multiplex at the top, but that was before the new owners, that project may have been shelved, if it ever existed.

  4. Great pictures Mikey. I never did go the cinema in Guyana when I lived there. I just never went. I knew where they were. Always crowded with long lines outside just to get tickets. I guess the cinemas are going the way of other technologies being phased out of regular use: the VCR, the CD player, the record player and many more. I think the lack of attendance and upkeep of running a cinema or theater is the main factor in the decline in Guyana.

    Here in the US, Cinema is growing while movie rental stores are the ones struggling to stay open while theaters are popping up everywhere. Theaters are still crowded and sold out at times for new releases but theater owners also contribute to that by showing movies in smaller theaters. I suspect the larger ones have problems filling the seats. Movie-watching online is the latest battle ground with companies only making their movies available via DVD to certain streaming sites while others must wait years to get the rights to the movies.

    There are a few Nostalgic theaters in Maryland left that show old movies in limited engagements for the same price or a bit more as new release ticket prices. Every now and then they screen a recent movie.

    I hope someone can make the multiplex work in Guyana. There is no reason it cannot be affordable, clean, up-to-date and financially stable. If a creative mind does not capitalize on the opportunity then cinema may be dead in Guyana.

  5. Micheal – Wow! Great Minds think alike, Am this very moment at home preparing an Exhibition on the ‘dodo Cinemas of Guyana including rare gems of London 1917 –
    Gaiety Brickdam burnt 1926 – Empire 1935 – Metropole 1936 – Rialto – Capitol – Olympic – Starlite Drive-in which opened with Elvis Presley in Blue Hawaii.
    All are invited to my first themed Nostalgia event ”Reminiscing the Guyana Movte experience 1917 to 2000 ‘- an OPRAH style hands on open Mike entertainment – seeking to preserve, propogate, and promote our Social & Cultural Heritage.
    Please be my honoured guest.
    Excuse my soap boxing but we are all on the same crusade. Ya think it easy!

      1. Michael – Please be my Guest Fri June 24th 7pm at Sidewalk Cafe Middle St.. Would love to have you sit on the panel to discus the ‘role and significance of Cinemas Yesteryear in Guyana.. Desmond Woon of the Astor will be there. GODc

  6. Annie

    “…the sound of the rodents running around the aisles.” lol This must be Plaza that you are referring to. I remember going there with you and Maureen to see an Indian movie and as we usually did at other cinemas we elected to sit in the Balcony. Now i remember there being quite a few people at the cinema but we were the ONLY ones upstairs. And all through the movie we heard rats running around with what sounded like plastic bags…no wonder i cant remember what movie we were there to see only the rats…it was terrifying lol we didn’t stay past the intermission:)

    Love the photo of Astor and grateful that you got it because who knows how much longer it will remain:) Only last week Malcolm and i were talking about the need for a proper Cinema here. Soon we hope:)

  7. Last time I went to a movie theatre (several years ago), it was so damn loud we had to stuff our ears. Guess I’m getting old just like your old cinemas, although I think I might have quite enjoyed attending a film there. Such a shame. I didn’t know taking money offshore was such a problem there. There are supposed to be regulations to prevent those problems in Canada, but I’m not sure that they apply equally across economic classes.

    1. I am not much of an economics person, but one of the problems I see has to do with the inequality in the spending power, we earn less but movie makers still want to charge what they would to a North American Cinema, to a Cinema in the third world, and the people just can’t afford that sometimes 🙂
      I think we used to go to the cinema to watch two movies for what would be a dollar for you 🙂

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