Aug

1

 The Cinema of Iquitos at one minute's walk along Calle Arica from the church corner of Plaza de Armas has deep roots that reach back to the rubber boom. With the arrival of foreigners, along with the evolution of the United States cinema in Hollywood, the Cinema in Iquitos showed its first film in 1900. It was show in the famous Casa de Fierro, the House of Steel now catty-corner from the present day theater, with an Edison machine. The projector used a carbide lamp that required the constant movement of the operator.

Due to the prominence of cinema in Iquitos, pioneers of filmmaking produced here including Antonio Wong Rengifo, Werner Herzog, Armando Godoy, and Dorian Moris. They prolonged the cinematic presence in the city that built today's theater where last night I viewed the horrid 'Dawn of the Planet of the Apes'. Although the movie could better have been acted by apes and chimpanzees, today's Iquitos Cinema meets American standards.

With a few flaws. The pluses in reviewing this theater begin with the four large screen theaters, with comfortable seating and effective air conditioning. You walk in with a bushel of popcorn and it could be Manhattan. The negatives are the interruption of the joy of the better films by cell calls, a continual flash of phone text screen among the audience, and the viewers – many of whose initial view of the world outside Iquitos is the silver screen (English Subtitles) - laugh, ooh & aah, or scream in terror at exactly the opposite moments that an American audience will. The string of films I've watched testing my sanity over the past fifteen years are new action thrillers and demonic massacres. Going to the Iquitos Cinema is like a trip deep into deep Amazonia with inexhaustible eye-witness quivers, except it's not a five meter anaconda but the person's legs in the seat behind that drape your shoulders if you slouch invisibly.

The staff is very friendly, and the owner diplomatic, but all are equally ineffective in enforcing their own rules about feet on chairs and use of cellphones. The food is excellent, but pricey upwards of USA fees for drinks and snacks. The place is a din from a game arcade that one must pass through to buy tickets. I've shelled out increasing prices since 1999 that started at 3 Soles (about a buck) and last night ran 10 Soles. The films are supposed to freshen each Thursday, but the likelihood is that a popular film, such as the present 'Transformers' will be held over for a month. There are about five daily showings of the normal venue of four different films, but arrive before the posted start time or the ticket seller will claim the seats are filled until you issue a bribe.

Through the Rubber Boom and its inevitable regress, on rolls the cinema. The crisis hit Iquitos hard and had its effect on the industry, but the play of Charlie Chaplin and new films did not stop. A movie theater in any city of the world is an economic indicator, and in Iquitos more so as even in depressed times it shows that a person will put a fantasy in front of his face before bread on the table.


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