Cinema is invented in 1895 thanks to the Lumière brothers. Just 20 years after that first cinematographic projection, in San Sebastian the Bellas Artes Theater is built, one of the first buildings in the Basque Country built exclusively as a cinema theater. It’s the oldest cinema theater in Spain that still maintains its original design.
One of the few cinema theaters in Europe nowadays made before First World War, and we have it here, in the Centre of Donosti.
Located between the Prim and Urbieta streets, it was designed by Ramón Cortázar, one of the most important architects for the city. To create this building, Cortázar was inspired by the Second French Empire architecture style, and although in 1943 the interior was renovated and done in expressionist rationalism style, this didn’t diminish any value to the building, that was used as a cinema theater until 1982. Probably its most distinguishing feature is the dome in the corner, now demolished. Despite of its big volume, the building doesn’t stand out with respect of the buildings around.
This monumental building, gate to the Central district from the Amara quarter, it’s been completely abandoned since 1989. The person writing these lines has never seen it being used. There’s a campaign to save the building from demolition and to recover it for the city, and even Icomos, the biggest international preservation network, tied to the Unesco, has released an international alert to save it. According to the latest news it seems that all this effort is not going to stop the demolition and unfortunately all the people of San Sebastian will lose a piece of our history.