In Maginhawa, a street in Quezon City known for its restaurant gems, an ambitious young filmmaker is serving a different type of ‘food’—the kind that delights your eyes, stimulates your mind, and fills your heart with all sorts of emotions. This is Cinema Centenario, a newly opened capsule theater that runs a variety of contemporary films, restored classics, indie titles, short films, and documentaries all week long.
Hector Barretto Calma is the dreamer who turned this vision of an alternative cinema into reality. A vision he admits was born out of envy with international film scenes. “Last 2016, may pinuntahan akong film festival sa Taiwan. ‘Yung venue is a standalone cinema na wala sa loob ng mall. Old winery siya that was converted into an art hub, so merong hall for art exhibits, merong dalawang hall na magkatabi for film screenings. Ang sabi ko, ‘Bakit wala tayong ganito sa Pilipinas? Ang dami-dami nating magagandang pelikula na pwedeng i-house ng mga alternative venues, pero wala.’”
While there was already Cinema ‘76 in San Juan and Black Maria in Mandaluyong, which both opened before Cinema Centenario in December 2017, Hector still felt the need to establish his own. And it wasn’t just for personal gratification, but also to make a contribution to the centennial anniversary of Philippine cinema—hence the name Cinema Centenario.
It took a painstaking year of planning, finding investors, scouting locations, and meeting with contractors took to build the theater, but one thing was made sure from the very beginning: it will be built along Maginhawa Street. Hector explains, “Marami kaming tiningnan na available locations, pero ang main target naming is Maginhawa kasi nandito ‘yung center ng happenings sa QC.”
“I mean, merong happenings sa Cubao, meron ding audience ‘yan, pero iba rin ‘yung audience ng Maginhawa. Alam nating lahat na pag gusto mo ng food trip, Maginhawa. Pero parang may kulang sa kanya, e. Parang kain ka lang nang kain, pero ‘yung tiyan mo lang ‘yung nabubusog. ‘Yung soul mo, kailangan meron ding kinakain. So sabi namin, ‘Lagyan natin ng sinehan sa Maginhawa para meron siyang food for the soul’—at ‘yung art, ‘yung cinema, ‘yun ‘yung food for the soul.”
Intimate film viewing
The venue sits on top of a meat shop near the corner of Magiting Street and overlooks a newly opened food park that gives you a potted view of what Maginhawa is all about. The art deco-inspired logo signage greets you by the door and gives you a straight up retro vibe along with the ticket booth found on the left side. A narrow hall for food concessionaires is available but guests are encouraged to bring in food from outside, particularly from establishments along the foodie street.
Inside the theater, 65 cushioned mahogany chairs sit on a graduated floor that has been precisely calculated to give an optimum view of the 100-inch screen wherever you choose to sit. The cinematic experience is powered by a full HD home cinema projector and a 5.1 surround sound system.
Unlike mainstream cinemas, tickets at Cinema Centenario only cost P200, which, if you come on the right day (i.e. gala nights), can also give you an opportunity to meet some of the people behind the films who are usually invited to come over and chat with the audience after screening.
The cinema is also open to small private functions like press launches, intimate film viewing, even workshops and seminars, which Cinema Centenario also intends to do. Hector says they would eventually hold their own forums and lectures, not just for the development of aspiring filmmakers, but also to grow the audience understands of films. “Kailangan kasabay ng pag-grow ng industriya ‘yung progress ng understanding ng audience sa film, para hindi ma-lost in translation ‘yung message na gustong iparating ng isang pelikula.”