Emek Movie Theater

Emek Movie Theater

In democracies, it is a huge disgrace to club, gas and arrest people who gather and march to squares to defend an idea. It is a crime to do so. It is against constitutional rights.

The Emek Movie Theater has absolutely contributed a lot to Turkish culture. It surely did to me. To watch a film on a giant screen was an enormous happiness.

It was a great pleasure also to see friends and acquaintances all at the same time during the film festival, at premieres.

Well, actually, I could not make it to the “chic” times of the movie theater. When I first stepped in there, it was a makeshift palace trying to be kept running, for a long time, with low quality taste and cheap material. Its former pompous boxes had gone as well as its old paintings, sculptures and old lobby. It was a movie theater that was degenerated in all aspects. It is not an excuse for its demolishment that it was badly used. I wish it had maintained its elegance. However, nobody thought of a thorough restoration because the festivalgoer would come anyway.

Emek Movie Theater is part of a huge building named Cercle D’Orient. In this building between the years 1882 and 1971, a venue first called Cercle D’Orient, then “Büyük Kulüp” hosted generals, ambassadors, businessmen, dining and chatting. The Büyük Kulüp, which means “Big Club,” opened a branch on the Anatolian side of the city. When Beyoğlu lost its charm, the place on İstiklal Avenue was closed. Then it was partitioned to small and midsized offices and rented out. In other words, not only the movie theater, the whole building was misused and became degenerated and miserable. The building will be knocked down altogether and rebuilt. The external façade will stay the same; there will be shops, a conference hall, a pocket cinema and a hotel inside the building. Because it will be knocked down, whatever was inside, including the İnci pastry shop has been evacuated. Emek Movie Theater (whatever is left of it) will be dismantled and moved to another floor. In other words, it is not vanishing; it will be reborn on another floor. Moreover, exactly the same as it was built in the 1880s.

I am trying to understand those who oppose the project. I have posted a couple of tweets on Twitter and I was met with insults such as, “shallow, sycophant of the government, disrespectful of historical values, shopping mall maniac.”

More reasonable ones said they did not want a cinema within a mall, (Can’t we watch a film without any shopping?), that everything is not money, not only the façade but also the interior of the building should have remained, that it could have been turned into a cultural center, then the cinema could have been protected and restored.

A huge cultural center could have been exciting. Of course I would have enjoyed more a Gugenheim, or a Pompidou with long queues in front of it. This would have been so much more suitable for İstiklal Avenue, I believe.

Come to think, how interested are we in culture and arts? A topic worth debating. Except for its restaurant, I have not seen crowds in Modern for a while. Even though it’s free, there were many times I have wandered all alone at SALT on İstiklal Avenue. If it were not free, then nobody would go there, I guess. Aksanat opened 20 years ago with great enthusiasm. Now, its first floor is leased to Teknosa. The beautiful Markiz pastry shop, which was somehow restored in the name of protecting history and opened, has now turned into an unattractive fast food place because no one shows up.

Demand is essential. A hybrid solution is the best. I repeat, it is a huge disgrace to club, gas and arrest people who demonstrate, who gather in squares to defend an idea. It is a crime to do so. It is against constitutional rights.

Mutlu Tönbekici is a columnist for daily Vatan, in which this piece was published on April 10. It was translated into English by the Daily News staff.

MUTLU TÖNBEKİCİ - mutlu.tonbekici@gmail.com