Informacion economica sobre Cuba

The Magic Lantern Is Switched Off / Yoani Sanchez
Posted on November 7, 2013

Robert is closing down his 3D movie business. He has put a price on the
projector, the glasses, and even the popcorn machine. He was only three
months into the business knows he can’t recover his investment. A
briefing note in the official Cuban press ended his entrepreneurial
plans. He was forces to close the same week he had planned to start
showing children’s movies in his air-conditioned room with cushy armchairs.

Of the more than 442,000 self-employed workers in this country, a good
share of them have been affected in recent weeks by new legal
restrictions. The Granma newspaper announced the immediate closing of
the private movie and videogame rooms, suggesting that these had never
been permitted.

Certainly the list of the more than 201 private licenses don’t include
film projection, nor computer rooms devoted to entertainment. However,
entrepreneurs have taken advantage of a small crack in the law, to
operate. In a short time, these “neighborhood theaters” began to appear
all over the country, some luxuriously appointed, some very modest.

Perhaps something that annoyed the State is that the three-dimensional
projectors were introduced to the country by private hands. Or that the
once powerful Cuban Institute of Cinematographic Art and Industry
(ICAIC) saw that some small businesses got ahead of them on implementing
such a new technology. The State apparatus sees itself threatened with
losing the monopoly over the broadcast of audiovisual and places where
it happens.

On the other hand, the private 3D rooms brought a lot of people back to
the idea of neighborhood movie theaters. For example, in mid-20th
century Havana, including the municipalities of Regla, Guanabacoa and
Marianao, was host to 134 movie theaters. Some of them with between
1,000 and 2,500 seats, including lower level and balcony. The main ones
came to have even as many 5,000 seats, like the Payret, the Radio
Central (currently the Yara), the Metropolitan, the Blanquita (today the
Karl Marx).

Of these, only 12 theaters remain active, largely in the most central
parts of the city. The concept of nearby and intimate space, where you
could go most Sundays, is unknown to Cubans under 30. So this opening of
movie rooms by the self-employed, awakened memories in some and
surprised others.

The programming of these new spaces, was based primarily on action,
horror and animated movies. Halloween night, 48 hours before the ban
that would close them, the 3D film rooms showed a wide range of
“nightmare” movies. It was an advance premonition to what their owners
would experience two days later. Spiderman, Avatar and Jack and the
Giants were some of the productions that paraded across the private
screens. Entertaining movies with no major artistic flights, but very
popular among Cuban youth and children.

At the last congress of the government-sponsored Hermanos Saíz
Assocation — an organization of young artists — one of the most striking
approaches was their coming out against movies promoted by the private
cinemas that are “frivolous, banal and consumerists.” We must “return to
the principles of the cultural policy of the Revolution,” some cries. It
was only a matter of time before the government ban would fall in the
private theaters. Because it was known that the Cuban government, given
a choice between extending the limits of the current legality, or
maintaining it despite the reality, I would opt for the second.

Fear of independent dissemination of information, a political
strenght-testing gesture, a backward step in the economic reforms. All
this and more is hidden behind the new restrictions against 3D movies
and videogames. However, it’s difficult to control a phenomenon that has
gained so much popularity and whose technological infrastructure is
already in the hands of so many Cubans.

Many, unlike Roberto who is unloading his equipment, plan to continue
underground. The magic lantern will shine again behind closed doors,
more discreetly, without neon signs, and without the aroma of popcorn
escaping from the room.

6 November 2013

Source: “The Magic Lantern Is Switched Off / Yoani Sanchez | Translating
Cuba” –

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