Istanbul’s iconic movie theater ‘cultural heritage,’ court says after demolition
Construction has been ongoing since the start of the demolition of the building in mid-2013.A regional Turkish court declared Istanbul’s iconic Emek Movie Theater as an historical and cultural heritage landmark on Jan. 13 even though teh building hosting the facility was demolished in May 2013 despite mass protests and social campaigns.
An expert assessment report handed to the administrative court argued that there was no public interest in the demolition of the historical building and that the current redevelopment process carried out by investors was not legal.
A 10-story building grandiosely named “Grand Pera” is slated to take the theater’s place. Kamer İnşaat, the construction company leading the Grand Pera project, has vowed to reopen the theater on the highest floors of the new building, but confusion remains about whether the theater will be moved elsewhere, or whether it will disappear altogether.
The expert report also said the new construction plans and the project’s design were not compatible with the historical and cultural fiber of the area.
The court ordered a stay of execution for the construction process based on the expert assessment. However, construction has been ongoing since mid-2013, after Istanbul’s Cultural Assets Protection Board gave the go-ahead to investors to start building.
Just a year younger than the Republic of Turkey, the Emek Movie Theater was built in 1924 and stands as the first of its kind in the republican era. Despite their fabled history, long-serving theaters in Istanbul’s Beyoğlu district have experienced difficulties in competing with newer, larger and more modern movie theater chains in recent years.
The project at the site of Emek has been denounced by activists, and well as by a number of actors, directors and cinema critics. A protest march on April 7, 2013, against the destruction of the theater on İstiklal Street in Beyoğlu, attended by renowned Greek-French director Costa-Gavras, was marked by a fierce police response, presaging the later attacks by security forces on Gezi Park protesters.