El Hamra and Melek Cinema Halls
This week we are in Beyoglu and we follow dusty paths to two former cinema halls that even Istanbulites have forgotten. As we have mentioned on our Facebook Page, Muhsin Ertugrul’s Ankara Post premiered at these two cinema halls on September 29, 1929.
Our first stop is El Hamra Cinema Hall at El Hamra Building. Before the hall opened its doors in 1923, this building housed Kristal Palas and the French Theatre between 1830s and 1920s. The ballroom and the theatre was built after a fire in the building in 1831, however due to low ticket sales the venue was used by a carpet company until Arapzade Sait Bey bought the building and opened El Hamra.
Gradually losing its glory, the hall was used as a theatre again between 1958 and 1970s. Caught up in the “double feature” trend, the hall was burnt to the ground during a fire in 1999. While the space was meant to be reused again through a nightclub project in 2006, it was abandoned and now lays empty.
Our next stop, Melek (Angel) Cinema Hall, got its name from the two angel figurines in its gallery.
Built by Alexandre Vallaury in 1884, the building was occupied by various different organizations including the Istanbul Hunters Club, Strangali’s Greek Athletic Gymnasium, New Circus, Rollerblade Rink and entertainment centre.
Melek Cinema Hall opened its doors in 1924; its first owners, the Artidis, sold the venue to Ipekcı Brothers in 1940s. When the State Retirement Fund (Emekli Sandığı) took over the hall’s ownership in 1957 the name was changed to Emek Cinema. Managed by Turgut Demirağ from 1969, and by Kurtulus family from 1975, the hall went through a series of renovations between 1999 and 2000. Unable the stand against the brutal force of the changing city, the cinema hall was demolished in 2013. You can view photos from the demolishment from here.
This week we were saddened by how we failed to protect our landmarks, and how history slips away from our hands.
We keep thinking, while change is a part of life, does it have to come with destruction, or can there be change through preservation?
Take care of yourselves,
Tracer of Istanbul