‘Cinema Paradise’ preserved and functioning intact after 80 years in a village in the Pyrenees

When yesYou climb the stairs to the narrow attic -“watch your head”-, old projector, 35 millimeterIt is inevitable that you will feel like Toto, that lively and innocent child who grew up in the ‘Cinema Paradiso’ cinema, between the reels. Alfredo, the film’s cute (and moustachioed) projectionist, is not in the narrow room, but the old projector and the posters displayed on the walls make you feel like the protagonist of the movie that won the Oscar for best foreign film in 1988. .

“Cinema is in our DNA,” Isaba’s mayor, Carlos Anaut, proudly explains. Small town of only 400 inhabitants in the Navarrese Pyrenees he keeps this jewel in a huge stone farmhouse next to the church. “It’s over 80 years old, but we have no record of exactly when it might have been built,” recalls the mayor, who knew about it as a child and, like the entire town, learned to love and care for it. “We are so proud of it, we appreciate it, we keep it with so much love.”

View of the hamlet of Isaba, where the last cinema in the Pyrenees is located. Alba Vigaray

Nothing arouses suspicion when you reach the door, where a beautiful ‘Cine/Zinema’ sign is carved from beech wood –The poster was once made by Anaut, who was a carpenter before retiring.– this will find what you find. Behind the entrance, to the right, is an old-style box office with velvet curtains that serves as a gateway to a lobby where dozens of old movie posters once showed: ‘Cantinflas’, ‘Lo que el Gone ‘With the Wind’ or ‘With the Devil’s Teeth’ Photographs of cinema legends such as Marlon Brando and Sofia Loren.


Two antique armchairs hang from the ceiling. It has two floors with high ceilings and more than 130 foam seats, as well as a stage where plays or events are staged. The facility is very clean and immaculate. A few dabs on the salmon-colored paint on the walls add even more magic to the space.. In recent years, partly with the municipal budget, all seats have been replaced with new ones, and the new electrical installation has been renewed, providing better quality lighting and illumination. more efficient consumption With funding from the Department of Economic and Business Development of the Government of Navarra.

Isaba acting mayor Carlos Anaut Abadía poses on the second floor of the cinema seats. Alba Vigaray

Undoubtedly, the most special room of the facility is the room where the old projector is located. “Cinema has gone through many phases; “Everything is digital now, but it used to be done with coal,” explains the mayor in the small room where the old reels are kept. The walls are also decorated with projected movie posters that came with the movies before.. A collection that could be housed in a museum. ‘As Good As It Is’, ‘Star Wars’, ‘A Night in Casablanca’… “We always show good movies here,” says Anaut in a room that once saw rolls of celluloid arrive in fabric sacks from Pamplona or Bilbao.

Anaut proudly shows two clapperboards from the shooting of two films that took place in Isaba, ‘Obaba’ and ‘Secretos del Corazon’: “Look what we have here?” both from Montxo Armendáriz, lover of the Navarrese town, one of the first to produce its own electricity.

Window opening to the pine forest

You can see today’s fog through the small windows in the upper seating area It covers the beautiful pine forests of the nearby mountains. Even when you get up close and look down, you can see huge biceps resembling octopuses in a local resident’s garden, adding even more magic to this temple of cinema.

The corridor leading to the second floor of the Isaba cinema. Alba Vigaray

What about when watching a movie?two neighbors from the neighboring town of Urzainqui ask the mayor curiously when they pass him in a cafeteria in town.

Working with volunteers from the municipality, the cinema is managed by the Cinema Friends Cultural Association. During the summer months, especially in August when there is an influx of tourists to the city, there are usually two screenings a week. It is larger than the beautiful Roncal valley. Throughout the year, movies are shown on some weekends or during regular season schedules. “People come from all over the valley and all over Spain. Once a woman came from Seville on holiday and was very surprised,” he explained to the mayor.

As in many towns, there is a 3 euro entrance fee for the maintenance of the facility, which was once established by the Church. There is actually a sign commemorating him on the facade. José María Labiano, the priest who encouraged cinema in the 50s The priest Jesús Arbeloa, who made the great transformation of the stalls, is also remembered with great affection. A work that his successors valued and respected.

Detail from the projection room of the only Isaba cinema in the Pyrenees. Alba Vigaray

Source: Informacion


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