Long gone and forgotten: The era of Maya, Dalisay, Crown, and Supreme cinemas in Butuan

By EG Rosales

This undated aerial photo of the city center of Butuan shows how fast the city evolved from a sparse settlement in the early 1900s to a bustling city by 1960. Photo courtesy of Jun Villalba/Jun Esplanada

I talked to the lifestyle editor of this online publication telling me he is writing about his high-school life, class 1978 and I was encouraged when he suggested I write about my memories of Butuan and promised to publish it.

So I sat and recalled the things I did when I was a kid and remembered the movie houses because I was fond of watching movies at such age. I found myself there and my parents for sure didn’t know. I regularly sneak in most theaters I fancied showing a good movie, never mind if the double presentation was bad and unpopular.

I think I remember Ramon too, the editor, to be a regular moviegoer, he being younger to me by two or three years. I told him as we recently talked, no wonder he became a movie reviewer, screenwriter, director, producer and even juror of independent film festivals. While I remain forever a moviegoer and sometimes write ordinary impressions as unsolicited contributor to newspapers.

For the record, I go to English movies in Supreme theater as it exclusively showed such movies. Tagalog movies was the domain of Dalisay and sometimes Maya, Crown and Diamond theaters. Chinese movies also landed mostly in Crown because it’s owned by the Chinese.

I saw Fernando Poe, Jr. movies in Dalisay, Maya and Diamond and Nora Aunor movies in Crown theater. Her fans would decorate with buntings at the lobby as if its fiesta but that’s how loyal and fixated they were.

War movies, the US versus Japan were shown at Supreme theater and later Empress Cinema. Both movie houses were what young people today would call “sosyal” because its concrete compared to the sagging wooden buildings of Maya, Dalisay and Diamond theaters.

Chinese karate movies which I got to like later was were shown at Crown, though I never got to understand the stories but were entertained by all those jumping, screaming and running around of the actors.

If you compare those cinemas then and now sheltered at the malls, there is a big difference and improvement. But as Ramon said, the past was more creative.

We remember the horror movie, “The Exorcist,” shown at Supreme theater and it carried a scary gimmick. At the center of the big screen, a life-like figure of the possessed girl hanged as it moved from the corner to the center. It shocked and surprised the audience. Being a young man, I was scared as hell.

Today, cinemas “adopted” at malls may be cushioned and air conditioned, nothing can beat the simplicity, the hometown atmosphere and creativity of the owners and fans. Long live the movie houses of the past!

Editor’s note: The author settled in USA since the 80’s and comes home as a balikbayan every three years.

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