Salvaged cinemas: five of the best

Grab a front-row seat at one of the world's defunct cinemas, now reborn as cool and cultural urban hubs

By Connor McGovern
Published 11 Oct 2018, 09:00 BST, Updated 15 Jul 2021, 12:14 BST
Matadero, Madrid

Locals said adiós to the last of Madrid's many pornographic picturehouses when the Duque de Alba cinema closed its doors in 2015. But this sordid cinema — in the gutsy Lavapiés district — has now dressed itself up for a glorious reincarnation. Cue Sala Equis, a culture vulture magnet since it opened last November. Gone are the lewd listings of yesteryear; there's now a packed schedule of themed film screenings, acoustic concerts and events played out amid art deco flourishes and pastel-toned, ivy-clad walls. And punters can make an evening of it when they turn up, too, with beer and tapas at the in-house bar. Sultry crimson seats in the 64-seater screen room are a fitting nod to the cinema's past — but you'll have to leave the rest to your imagination.


Hackney Arts Centre, London
The derelict Savoy Cinema in Dalston has finally awoken from its slumber. Events at this new east London venue still take place in the original auditorium, where world-renowned comics, DJs and artists take to the stripped-back stage.

L'Avventura, Stockholm
Original frescoes and soaring ceilings — none of the former 1927 Metropol-Palais cinema's shine has dulled since it became this new gourmet Italian restaurant in the Vasastan district. We'll have the saffron and clam risotto, please.

Take three… Screen swaps

Matadero, Madrid
It seems the Spanish capital has a thing for cinematic spruce-ups. An old slaughterhouse in the riverside Madrid Río park has been rehashed as a buzzing, industrial-chic cinema and cultural centre.

Lumière, Maastricht
As part of the revamp around the city's industrial quarter, this former boiler house was given a trendy makeover last year with the addition of six screens, a restaurant and a cafe.

Le Lumière, La Ciotat
It's market-meets-movies at this cinema in the South of France, housed in a beautiful old art nouveau covered hall. Don't forget to call in at Ciné Eden while you're in town, too — going since 1889, it's the world's oldest functioning cinema.

Published in the November 2018 issue of National Geographic Traveller (UK)


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