- NYT’s David Brooks: Obama has ‘manhood problem’ in Middle East
- Ted Cruz thanks Obama for denying visas to terrorists
- Survivors recall chaos, fear in Everest avalanche
- General Mills apologizes for ‘right to sue’ confusion, reverses policy
- Dealer wanted in U.S. for art fraud nabbed in Spain
- Easter morning delivery for space station
- Boxer Rubin ‘Hurricane’ Carter dies at 76
- Probe could complicate Rick Perry’s prospects
- Ukraine, Russia trade blame for eastern shootout
- Obamas head to church on Easter morning
Seoul’s last 1-screen cinema plays classic finale
SEOUL, SOUTH KOREA (AP) - Seoul’s last old-style, one-screen cinema, soon to be knocked down and replaced by a hotel, played its final movie Wednesday _ the Italian classic “The Bicycle Thief” _ a moment so emotional for the theater operator that she publicly shaved her head in frustration.
The theater, which opened in 1964, had become a place where mostly elderly moviegoers gathered regularly to watch classic Hollywood and South Korean films and indulge in nostalgia for cinematic days gone by.
As huge multiplexes made it hard to compete financially, the Seodaemun Art Hall played up the one thing the newer theaters could never match _ its age. But the theater’s attempt to keep business alive based on that shared joy of nostalgia and a sense of community among its elderly patrons came to an end Wednesday.
“My heart is aching because I have to let (the theater) go like this,” Kim Eun-ju, 39, the head of theater operator Hollywood Classic, said before having her head shaved. “Working here was the happiest time of my life.”
The building venerates Hollywood royalty, with a hand-painted advertising board over the theater and big photos of American movie stars like Audrey Hepburn and Elizabeth Taylor hanging on the walls. Still, it also has a distinctly South Korean feel: No popcorn is sold here; only rice cakes favored by many elderly Koreans.
This glorification of the past is increasingly hard to find in the hustle and bustle of ultramodern Seoul, where older neighborhoods disappear constantly, replaced with construction sites throwing up gleaming glass and steel buildings housing apartments, hotels and offices.
Seoul officials approved plans to demolish the theater as early as August to build a high-rise hotel, hoping to create jobs and resolve a shortage of hotel rooms for foreign tourists. Seoul-based Glotel, the landlord of the theater building, declined to comment.
The theater’s end has been hard to take for many of the workers and people who regularly watched movies here, hundreds of whom came Wednesday to see Italian director Vittorio De Sica’s 1948 classic. Most were in their 60s to 80s, and many expressed sadness.
“Old people have fewer places to go now,” said Kim Ki-woong, a 70-year-old Seoul resident who visited the theater twice a week. He stood beneath the theater’s billboard, which, instead of the usual hand-painted movie pictures, had a sign that read, “Please protect the culture of senior citizens.”
After the movie ended, Kim Eun-ju, the theater operator, had her head shaved before moviegoers and reporters packing the theater hall. Several volunteer theater workers cried and embraced Kim after most of her hair was gone, shouting, “Stop it! Stop it!”
“I just want to let the people know how many happy moments this kind of culture can bring us,” Kim said, wiping away tears with tissues.
In the 1980s, the theater was a hot spot for Hong Kong movies, with top stars such as Leslie Cheung and Chow Yun-fat visiting on opening night and young moviegoers lining up to buy tickets.
But its popularity sharply declined when modern multiplex theaters came to South Korea in the 1990s, forcing it to screen previews or older films before focusing on classic movies like “Ben-Hur,” “Gone With the Wind” and “Roman Holiday.”
“If we continued to maintain that theater, it would have been a historic site for Seoul,” showing off the capital city’s past landscape, culture commentator Ha Jae-keun said. “We need a policy to protect symbolic places in Seoul.”
TWT Video Picks
Women losing coverage under Obamacare, too
- Scalia to students on high taxes: At a certain point, 'perhaps you should revolt'
- Former Ranger breaks silence on Pat Tillman death: I may have killed him
- Special Forces' suicide rates hit record levels casualties of 'hard combat'
- Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz: Vulnerable Democrats must 'run their own race'
- Army goes to war with National Guard, seizes Apache attack helicopters
- Feds approve powdered alcohol; 'Palcohol' available later this year
- U.S. Navy to turn seawater into jet fuel
- EDITORIAL: Republicans finally fight back in phony 'war on women'
- WILLIAMS: Bill Maher, comedian or bigot?
- NYT's David Brooks: Obama has 'manhood problem' in Middle East
Top 10 handguns in the U.S.