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Remember the Old Cinemas!

In Belize City there were three of them – Majestic, Palace and Eden Cinemas. In San Pedro there was Teatro Arenas (Sands Cinema). Those in Belize operated every night and there were the famous double headers on Friday nights. Sundays were special for there were three functions – the ten o’clock matinee, the five o’clock matinee and the eight o’clock movie.

In San Pedro there were only movies on weekends. Fridays and Saturdays there were the adult functions at eight p.m. On Sundays there were the five o’clock matinees and the late show. During the summer vacations and children were out of school at times Mr. Fido Nuñez, cranked up the old machines with the giant reels and showed a film during the week by special request. If he could guarantee some 30 persons, then it became profitable for him to do so.

The old cinemas operated with some giant reels of 35 millimeters film. A typical movie could be in some six or seven reels. When the film reached to the end of the reel, there would be some light signal at the top corner of the screen for the operator to flick in the new reel. This was an amusing time for if the film would burst, this was the time it would. There was loud whistling of disapproval at this time, especially if the action movie was at its best spot. There was also disapproval by the audience when the lights were turned on. This sudden ray of light hurt the eyes after being in darkness for some time. More disapproval came from the dating couples, who were probably not watching the movie but rather engaged in some romance. The lights would mean a quick separation, fixing up of the hair or removal of lipstick from the gentleman’s cheeks or lips. When at this time you saw some boy slouching all the way down in his seat, this would mean that the girl’s parents disapproved of her being in his company. Therefore the boy would try to hide from the public eye and worse from the public gossip and malice.

The film would burst often when it was an old movie that had been overused and ill-treated by other cinema operators. It would also burst often when the operator lacked experience and did not set the film right in the many rollers and lenses in the huge and complicated machine. We used to go to movies for 25 cents on weekdays and 50 cents on weekends. There were popcorn and chocolates and pops available so it was the best in those days. The seats were all wooden but nobody complained about them. A big tall person in front of you was bothersome, for the floor was almost flat and that obstructed one’s view. Guys constantly walking in and out only to attract attention also drew whistles and rude remarks from viewers. An occasional snore also drew the attention of viewers. A funny anecdote everyone remembers was when the movie was over and one guy remained sleeping in his seat. He had to be awakened by the operator at closing time.

Perhaps the most important thing that can be said about our old cinema was that it was the main meeting place for couples who were in love, with or without the approval of the parents. Good old cinema 25 years ago was located right at the site of Fido’s today.

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