Friday, June 27, 2014

Ideal Theater

Ideal Theater during its pre-war heyday. Ⓒ Manila Nostalgia/Isidra Reyes

Manila was a city which served as a model of pre-war prosperity. Its other Far Eastern neighbors such as Singapore and Hong Kong were no match to Manila's outstanding beauty. The city boasted the finest shops, restaurants, theaters, and institutions that made it earn the title 'Most Beautiful City in the Far East'. Along the fabulous Avenida de Rizal, known to many as the Avenida, there are numerous theaters to choose from. One of these theaters was the Ideal, considered by Manila's alta sociedad as one of the best theaters in the city.

The Ideal Theater was an art-deco masterpiece designed by the National Artist for Architecture Pablo Antonio in 1933. The theater, owned by the Roces family, in partnership with Teotico, Basa, Tuason, and Guidote families, has been operating since 1912, with the first theater made out of wood. 

 Pablo Antonio y Sebero, architect of the Ideal Theater. Ⓒ History of Architecture

As mentioned, the Ideal Theater was commissioned by the Roces family to Pablo Antonio, one of the second-generation Filipino architects who came back after studying or training overseas. Antonio's commission on the Ideal made an impact to his career. Later on, he would design other Manila landmarks, such as the Far Eastern University, White Cross Orphanage, and the post-war Manila Polo Club in Forbes Park. 

The Ideal was then the exclusive exhibitors of MGM motion picture films in the Philippines. Ⓒ Paulo Alcazaren

The Ideal projected an art-deco style of architecture. This type of architectural style was prevalent in the 1930s, wherein cinemas and theaters were designed using this style. One of its interesting features is that it boasted a streamline design -- that is, it was adorned with smooth curves and finishes. After its completion in 1933, the Ideal became one of the city's best theaters. Because of its location along the Avenida de Rizal, many theaters soon rose on its grounds. Rival theaters such as the State, Ever, and Avenue owned by the Rufino family built their theaters along Avenida de Rizal. 

The Ideal (center), and the Roces Building (left), taken sometime in the late 1930s. Ⓒ Manila Nostalgia/Isidra Reyes

Ideal Theater's proscenium. Take note of the streamline design of the arches. Ⓒ Manila Nostalgia/Isidra Reyes

During the Japanese occupation, the Ideal, along with other theaters in the city did not feature Hollywood films, but instead showed Japanese films and stage plays used for propaganda. 

Filipinos welcoming the Japanese as they paraded triumphantly in the newly-captured city of Manila. The Ideal Theater can be seen on the left. Ⓒ Alfredo Roces

The liberation of the City of Manila in February of 1945 brought great suffering to hundreds of thousands of innocent civilians. More than fifty percent of the structures in the city were either damaged or completely ruined. The Ideal was one of the structures in the city that was not totally devastated during the month-long battle. 

Avenida de Rizal after the liberation in 1945. The Ideal (left) and State (right) theaters can be seen. Ⓒ Flickr/Beyond Forgetting

Post-war rehabilitation came immediately after 1945. Many of the city's destroyed structures were either rebuilt or completely demolished to pave way to new and modern structures. The Ideal was rebuilt, along with other movie theaters in the city. In fact, movie theaters were the first to be rebuilt as many people demanded entertainment. 

Ideal Theater in the early 1960s. Ⓒ Manila Nostalgia/Jess Espanola

The emergence of air-conditioned shopping malls such as Quad and ShoeMart paved way to the decline of the standalone movie theaters. In the case of the Ideal, and other theaters located along the Avenida, it was due to the construction of the elevated Light Rail Transit in the 1980s. 

The Ideal, once the gem of Rizal Avenue's theaters, closed down in the 1970s and was demolished to make way for shopping arcade.

The Ideal Theater taken sometime in the 1970s. Ⓒ The Urban Historian


  1. "...was demolished to make way for shopping arcade". Is that the Good Earth Plaza now?

  2. Thank you so much for the information...

  3. Sad, we could not protect our national treasure.. it need to demolish to give way for some establishment.

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  5. Nasunog o sinunog po ang ideal theater