Iconic Central Pyongyang Cinema
It was the first cinema in North Korea, completed in 1955, seen as an important part of the post-war building. with houses, schools and hospitals. Partly perhaps to provide for the people but it was also providing a venue to spread the propaganda of the films being made – the first North Korean film being produced in 1949 ‘My Home Village’
Kim Il Sung visited the newly completed building on 29 December 1955, just prior to the cinema’s opening, and proposed a change from the name ‘Central Cinema House’ to Taedongmum cinema due to its proximity to the Taedong Gate
The building is in the neoclassical style with what looks like classical Greek columns but these are more likely to have been based on traditional Korean octagonal columns to give a touch of ‘Koreaness ‘to the building. The group statue on the roof is not the normal triumvirate of worker, peasant and intellectual that you find in later sculptures but is of a worker, peasant and soldier.
In 2008 Kim Jong Il decreed that the cinema be upgraded and the rear wall was pushed back to double the size of the original building. The interior was totally gutted and remodelled with abundant use of shiny tiles and granite which despite ornate chandeliers makes the place feel somewhat cold and impersonal.
There are two 500 seat cinemas and the stage also functions also as a space for theatre and concerts as well as hosting screenings for the annual Pyongyang International Film Festival held in Autumn which can be visited by tourists with Koryo Tours.
One story told at the Taedongmun Cinema is that Kim Jong Il was particularly concerned that the positioning of the first two rows of seats might cause eye fatigue and neck strain which might lead to cervical vertebrae damage, and so these seats were removed
If you look closely at the façade on the left and right uppermost roof corners are the date 1955 surrounded by a ring of flags. The cinema façade used to be full of large hand-painted film posters but these have been removed and a relatively discreet concrete billboard has been set up where smaller posters show the cinema's upcoming box office attractions.
For more on cinemas in Korea check out this blog post