The Spanish writer Baltasar Gracian said: “The first step of ignorance is to presume to know.” We say this because last week the Director of the National Authority for Consumer Protection and Competition (ACODECO) Pedro Meilan, while speaking on the program “Defend Your Rights” on Telemetro, said Panamanians should be aware of the entertainment they can afford, and he even recommended movie theaters in Calidonia and Santa Ana.
During the interview the reporter Aracelis Leoteau questioned Meilan about the rising costs of living in the country, saying not only are the costs for basic food items increasing, but the increases also extend to other areas such as the cost for cell phone service and entertainment. Regarding the recreational facilities of Panama, such as cinemas, Meilan replied: “There are cheaper cinemas … There are cinemas in Calidonia, Santa Ana, maybe you dont know because you have not gone over there (referring to the journalist Aracelis), but that is reality, there are movie theaters where people have access … There is the ‘Variety’, which is in Santa Ana.” Meilan ended by saying Panamanians should make adjustments to pay for the entertainment their pockets can afford or consume.
So, we toured the movie theaters in Calidonia and Calle 17. One afternoon, a team from “Mi Diario” was given the task of touring the different movie theaters Meilán recommended to Panamanians as the cheaper options he deemed fit to attend.
The first one we went to was the “Apollo Cinema” located in Calidonia, in the neighborhood of San Miguel, what we saw outside on the door of this theater was a sign saying “Adults Only” and all of the films being shown were “triple X”. The person in charge of this movie theater blocked access, saying they did not allow access to the press, so they would not “disdain” the contents of the movies they were showing.
Given this refusal we then went to the “Teatro Tropical”, located close to the Office of the Social Security on Calle 17 in Santa Ana. There we were able to enter the “lobby” of the premises where there was “musty” smell and something else that was there to greet us. We also saw some men who were walking around the area as if they were waiting for something. In this theater also we found that all of the posters promoting movies both inside and outside had sexual content with titles like “Nympho,” “In your dreams,” and “carnal attraction” to name a few.
We also went to the Santa Ana park and there we saw that the movie theaters “El Dorado,” “Amador,” and “Variety” were all closed and no longer operating. Another aspect to report is that the only two theaters still standing in these sectors, the “Apollo” in Calidonia and the “Tropical” in Santa Ana are located in areas with a high degree of exposure to theft.
Our question is – Do the poor families of the country only deserve access to these types of movie theaters? (Mi Diario)
Editor’s Comment: Whoops. A “musty smell” and guys standing around the lobby like they’re waiting for something? Well, that’s my definition of wholesome affordable family entertainment, by golly! But seriously, folks. There are no good movie theaters in the areas of Calidonia or Santa Ana. These smaller local movie theaters that were built 70 years ago can no longer compete with the huge “multi-plex” 12 screen jobs at the malls. I see this as a great opportunity for the government to step in, buy a couple of these old theaters, fix them up, and run them basically as a non-profit service for the poorer communities. Animated films for the kids on Sunday afternoon, cheap popcorn, that sort of thing. In my hometown the old theater where my parents took me to see Disney movies when I was a kid, is now known as the “Paramount Theatre, one of the areas finest examples of community support for restoration of a Downtown Landmark, and for the extensive cultural development of the City and the area.” The theater went out of business at the end of the 70’s, the building was taken over for back taxes, the municipal city government ran if for awhile, and now it’s become profitable as a venue for stage productions and live bands. Anyway, this kind of thing has happened at many small town or local movie theaters around the world. I think Panama as an opportunity to do something good with these properties.