So, we’re all back from coffee and bathroom breaks? Let us continue this peregrination along the path of the cinemas Lino remembers from earliest childhood, or from however old he was when his mother would give herself some time off and take him to the movies at Campo Santa Margherita. Or when he and his friends would head for the parish halls, or patronati, on Sunday afternoons.
Let’s start here:
This long building behind the wall, which now belongs to the Hotel Belle Arti behind the Accademia galleries, was part of the monastery associated with the Istituto Cavanis, a school which still occupies the palace across the street. Like some other religious institutions, “the Cavanis” would show movies, just one of the assorted entertainments that were organized for the parish families. Lino headed here with his friends every Sunday afternoon.
The former entrance to the cinema has been plastered- and pictured-over.
Going around a few corners, we pass the still-lamented (by me) former Cinema Accademia. I went to some American film here during my first year in Venice and remember absolutely nothing about it because I spent the entire time translating the amazingly banal dialogue for Lino, who eventually went to sleep (dark, soothing atmosphere….). We didn’t go the movies for a long time after that.
Whole generations of people have passed this place since it closed, and I don’t know how many remember what was here before it became just another community notice board. By now, Venice is wallpapered with shutters of all sorts, thoroughly spray-painted or otherwise enhanced.
“Cinema” still barely discernible…
Followed by something else written above the doors. It’s like trying to read an eye chart drawn in Mayan hieroglyphics.
An eye chart gracefully surmounted by these forgotten pieces of wrought iron. Did lamps once hang from them?
Neatly folded behind this important corner at Campo Santa Margherita was the Cinema Moderno.
The entrance to the supermarket facing the Rio Tera’ dei Pugni would hint at its having been the entrance to the Cinema Moderno. But no! (Zwingle’s Fifth Law: Never Assume. Zwingle’s Corollary: Abandon logic, it’s useless baggage.)
This was the entrance, fairly far down the campo’s long side. Over time, local artists have dedicated their talents to embellishing the doors.
I’m sorry its mosaic elegance doesn’t come through as I’d have wished. If I’d had a ladder to climb, things would have been different.
The truncated belltower of the former church of Santa Margherita is known to anyone who has crossed the eponymous campo. I can tell you nothing about its truncation, but I can tell you that the attached church just behind it was, in Lino’s day, the “Cinema Vecio” (old cinema). And the door we see was the cinema entrance. Lino jokes that they’d go to see films like “La Fuga del Cavallo Morto” (the escape of the dead horse).
The ticket booth was just inside to the left, and outside stood a man making and selling “franfranica,” which according to Lino’s description resembled (or was) taffy. It was a large mass stuck on a nail that gravity drew into a long thick strip which the man pulled out and up and let it stretch down again. He sold candy apples and caramelized pears and other sorts of sweets. Until the “talkies” appeared, Lino’s father (who was an engineer and drove a steam-powered train from Venice to Trento), would make extra money by reading the title cards aloud during the show. Almost everyone had finished elementary school, but Lino’s father had finished middle school.
The porticoed doorway is now the main entrance to what originally (14th century) was a Catholic church. It was closed in 1810 and used for various “profane” purposes which I haven’t yet identified. In 1882 it became the Evangelical Lutheran church (a congregation which now meets in the former Scuola dell’Angelo Custode at the Santi Apostoli). At some point it became a cinema, and ultimately was renovated as an auditorium for the University of Venice/Ca’ Foscari.
The battle of the fading inscriptions continues.
On this side of the church/cinema a little old lady set up a small stand on movie days and sold candy organized in little compartments. During the intermission, someone else would stroll the aisles with a tray held on a strap around his neck, selling more candy — “caramelle” in Italian and Venetian and calling out “KAH-ra-MEEEEEEEH.” He also sold toasted pumpkin seeds, whose husks were destined to fall to the floor. “You can imagine what it was like for the sweepers,” Lino said.
About halfway up the building’s wall is this row of extraordinary heads. Were they sculpted as a sort of apotropaic rampart? Brought here from elsewhere? Just left over from… what?
Whatever they are, they’re great.
The cinema at the Frari bore many similarities to the one at the Cavanis. As you see, there is a wall and a longish building; these are found at the far end of the spacious compound which houses the basilica of the Frari, two cloisters, some buildings and some garden. Here we are the “some buildings and garden” end, on the Calle Drio l’Archivio, the street behind the Archives. The friars organized things, but anybody could buy a ticket and watch to their heart’s content.
The Cinema Quirinetta was in a place which I doubt you’ve ever noticed because I doubt you’ve ever walked by here. It’s pretty remote from the usual tourist territory, but of course your usual locals knew all about it.
The tour ends here. I’m sure there are other places which Lino doesn’t remember, or never went to. Maybe some of my Venetian readers will offer some other information, which would be great.
Before I ring the curtain down on this triple-feature, I discover that I left out a cinema that belonged on yesterday’s list. It’s on the Strada Nova a few steps from the Santa Sofia traghetto dock/Ca’ d’Oro vaporetto stop:
It says so proudly: Cinema Teatro Progresso. Now you can buy shampoo and lipstick and toilet- bowl cleaner there instead. Certainly more useful, though perhaps not quite as enjoyable as a night at the flicks.