city in space - locations

Aribau 5
Palacio Balañá
Palacio del Cinema

Barcelona is a cinema city - as evidenced by a series of magnificent movie houses built when Hollywood was in danger of losing its audience to television. The attempt to make cinema a more exciting experience by increasing the size of the movie theatres only partially stemmed the demise of moviegoers in the late 1950s and 1960s - yet the effect of a real film can probably only ever be experienced on screens of 200 square metres and up. In halls that have been designed to refine perception down to the smallest detail and pay suitable tribute to the largest empty space in movie-house architecture: the screen itself. The elegant grey seats, for instance, and the sound-optimised, modernist panelling in the Palacio Balañá; or the light elements that guide the gaze in the apotheotic auditorium of the Urgel Cinema which, with its immodest 1,832 seats, is probably the largest cinema in Spain if not Europe. Even today, going out to see a film in Barcelona is still an inexpensive pleasure. Not only for young people but also for the older generation who, wearing finery as if for a festive evening, go out to films happily and frequently. Re-runs have not been banned to studio cinemas or revival houses, but can be seen at the very best establishments: William Friedkin's director's cut of The Exorcist (1971) was shown on the monumental screen at the Urgel Cinema. Of course, in Barcelona as in all cities, the Multiplex halls are on the increase. The Grup Balañá, the biggest cinema and theatre society in Barcelona for over 60 years, likes doing things in style. In the 1960s the head of the Grup Balañá commissioned interior designer Antoni Bonamusa i Homs to renovate, convert or - as in the case of the Palacio Balañá - to help rebuild many of the Group's cinemas. It is not all that surprising, therefore, that the halls shown here were designed by Bonamusa.