Turkish film critics are calling on all cinephiles in Istanbul and all across Turkey to raise their voices against the planned demolition of the historic Emek Sineması, the Emek Movie Theater in Beyoğlu, which has been serving as a cinema since the 1920s and which was one of the key movie theaters that used to host Istanbul’s numerous film festivals before being shut down in 2009.
The Turkish Film Critics Association (SİYAD), in a statement posted on its website, said that they will not let the theater be razed down, and urged “all filmmakers and intellectuals from all arts and culture circles in Turkey once more to take collective action” to stop the theater from being pulled down.
According to plans announced in 2010, the historic 19th century building that is home to the Emek Theater will be demolished in order to build a shopping mall, a plan many nongovernmental organizations and movie industry-related platforms in Turkey oppose on the grounds that Emek is one of the landmarks of Beyoğlu as well as being a major hub for cinephiles. The future of the theater fell into limbo when an Istanbul court in May 2010 issued a stay of execution on the building’s demolition. The same court last week removed the stay of execution, giving the green light for the demolition plan.
The SİYAD statement added that although it is now the overall belief that with last week’s court decision “the clock has started ticking towards the inevitable end. This country’s movie lovers will not leave Emek Theater alone.” “We will not let Emek be demolished!” the statement concluded.
Built by the well-known architect Alexandre Vallaury in 1884 and utilized for a number of different purposes (Hunters’ Club, Athletics Gym, Circus, Skating Palace) till 1924, the Emek building was then opened as a movie theater. First named ‘Melek’ (angel in Turkish) because of its beautiful art-nouveau angel figures, after it was bought by the state institution, The Pension Fund in 1957, the building was named after it as Emek. With its singular architecture, its spacious hall with sitting capacity of 875 persons and its easy access to and from street, the Cinema has become one of the most important cultural venues of Istanbul ever since. In 2000, Emek was renovated while its sound system was changed to Dolby Digital, enabling it to compete with the most modern cinemas of Istanbul.
Against the renewal project of the municipality, activists, film stars, artists, media representatives, academicians and citizens have started a campaign to reclaim Emek. On the 17th of April 2011 there was a demonstration on Istiklal Caddesi. Their slogan was: ‘Emek is Ours/ Istanbul is Ours’.
I totally agree with the campaign and hope that the Emek cinema will be saved. We have more than enough shopping malls already! Save the historic buildings and pay respect to culture!
Sources: Today’s Zaman and www.habitants.org