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Broadway Theatre

Bohumír Kozák, Antonín Černý

alias Cinema Broadway, Cinema Sevastopol, UFA-Viktoria
history of the theatresupplementtechnical dataHistoric equipment

Important events

(detail)30. 's 20. century | construction

The Broadway Theatre has been converted from the former cinema in the basement of the Functionalist palace that was erected between 1936–1938 according to the design by Bohumír  Kozák and Antonín Černý.


(detail)9. 9.1938 | opening of the cinema
The ceremonial opening of the new cinema took place on 9th  September of 1938.
(detail)1999 | closure of the cinema

The cinema was closed down in 1999.   


(detail)2001 | reconstruction
The whole space was rented in March 2001 by the company Divadlo Broadway, which initiated a reconstruction of the space for theatre use. The design was worked out by Ondřej Šnobl, Jaromír Pizinger and Helena Tůmová. Building permit was issued on 25. June 2001. The completion certificate was issued on 12th December of the same year.
(detail)X.2.2002 | opening
The venue was opened in February of 2002 with a premier of the musical Kleopatra.

People

(detail)Bohumír Kozák |main architect

A Czech architect, disciple of J. Schulz and J. Koula. He dedicated almost his whole career to Prague, where he built an array of significant Functionalistic buildings.

More theatres

Antonín Černý |main architect
Ondřej Šnobl |architect

History

The Broadway Theatre has been converted from the former cinema in the basement under an arcade of the palace having the same name between the Na Příkopě and Celetná streets. One of the largest Functionalist buildings in the Prague Old Town was erected in the location of older houses between 1936–1938 according to the design by Bohumír  Kozák (1885–1978) and Antonín Černý 1896–1976). According to Miroslav Čvančara, Russian emigrant Eugen Tomanov (Tumanov?) cooperated with them on the design of the cinema. Structural engineers helped to solve constructional problems of the complicated structure: František Dašek in the arches of the arcade and František Svatoš in the cinema hall.

The palace was built by Italian assurance companies Assicurazioni Generali and Moldavia Generali. From the beginning, the cinema enjoyed cooperation with the Czechoslovakian branch of the Metro Goldwyn Mayer, which moved into the palace immediately after its completion from its former seat in the Fénix Palace on the Wenceslas Square.

Jiří Hilmera described the hall of the Broadway Theatre from the point of view of the development of the cinema halls as the space: “anachronistic prolonged proportions with boxes, which were frontally oriented, in the rear of the stalls, but again with boxes, oriented transversely, on the balcony arms and even in the close vicinity of the side trims of the projection screen. It is perhaps the last cinema hall in Prague, where an orchestra pit was designed (in the days of widespread use of talking pictures).“ However according to Miroslav Čvančara, the orchestra pit was there for a reason: in a first run cinema of a big film distributor, orchestra overtures were common even in the era of talking pictures on  ceremonial occasions. The original furnishing of the cinema was above the standard as well. Luxurious leather chairs were installed in its auditorium with air conditioning and equipment for hearing-impaired people and the cinema had the most recent projection and audio equipment.

The ceremonial opening of the new cinema took place on 9th  September of 1938. The Broadway cinema was renamed to Na Příkopě cinema already few weeks after its opening. Another name UFA-Viktoria was given to it in July of 1941 as it was meant to remind of the military accomplishments of the imperial forces. After the end of the war, the cinema was given the name Sevastopol; the projection was commenced here on 13th June of 1945. The cinema was given back its original name not before 1989 and it operated under the name Cinema Broadway.

The cinema Sevastopol  belonged among  preview cinemas from 1957. It also belonged among the most visited in Prague in the 1980s. According to Čvančara, a reconstruction was carried out in 1986–1987, after which the number of seats was reduced to 547 ( no records have been preserved in the building records).  Modernization of the cinema was carried out in 1996, during which it was furnished with three-dimensional sound technology SDDS as the first one in the Czech Republic.

The cinema operation was affected in the 1990s by protracted disputes between the tenants of the cinema and the palace. The palace was in the possession of the Czech Railways, which rented it first to the Creseus company, later to the MICC Prague company. In 2002,  the palace was transferred to the Railway Infrastructure Administration from the Czech Railways. The sale of the palace was being prepared in 2007, but it has remained unrealized for the time being. The disputes between the cinema operators and the main tenants peaked in 1998 when the cinema was disconnected from the electricity supply. The cinema operators attempted to continue with projection for some time (even with the help of an engine-generator) but they buckled under the pressure and the cinema was closed down in 1999.   

The further use of the hall was unclear for a long time. The investor was selecting from proposals “from an art cinema to amusement centre” still in November of 2000. The entire venue was hired by the Broadway Theatre company in March of 2001 and it was converted into a theatre during one year.

According to the Internet presentation, the firm MORIX of architect Jaromír Pizinger elaborated the “ architectural design of the conversion of the Sevastopol cinema into a musical venue”. Pizinger is signed under the copy of the design in the building records under the heading of the OSCAR LLC. Brno together with designer Ondřej  Šnobl. The main part of the reconstruction was understandably concentrated on the construction of a stage that would be equipped in a modern way and necessary backstage. The completion certificate was issued in December of 2001 and the theatre was opened in February of 2002 with  a premier of the musical Kleopatra.

Present state

The Broadway palace is composed of two six storey wings, which are separated from another wing in the middle of the parcel by two yards. All the parts are connected by a passage that is bent inside with glass canopies covering the yards. Under the entire complex, there are three underground storeys with large space of the cinema (theatre) located under both the yards and the central wing. There has been preserved original iron frames of showcases and iron doors of the shops and cinema in the passage.  The architects inserted here three prolonged areas with house staircases and ticket office. The entrances to the theatre along the sides of the arcade lead to three staircases: to two that encircle columns along the sides of the front section of the auditorium and to one by the left side of the hall.

At first, one descends through staircases to the level of the balcony in the first basement. There is an access from here to the balcony along the rear wall of the hall and to side boxes through narrow corridors along the sides of the hall. Operational offices and bar are located in the adjacent area of the first basement. The stalls are in the level of the second basement. The  rectangular auditorium measures 27,5 × 13,5 m and has bevelled corners in the rear and is encircled from three sides by a wide corridor with cloak rooms (the auditorium itself is not  semicircular as it is sometimes stated).

The auditorium is covered by a shell vault with recessed rectangular fields (originally glassed with   lightning from above) and the walls of the hall are articulated by pilasters of the reinforced concrete structure. There are 594 seats in 26 rows on the rising floor. The original row of the front boxes under the balcony was removed. The auditorium is entered through four doors on the both sides of the hall. The hall is encircled by a balcony, which has seven rows by the rear wall. There are 136 seats on the balcony after the projection booth has been decreased. Twelve balcony boxes along the side walls of the hall are used by VIP guests.

The stage has a trapezoid shape and measures circa 13 (width of the forestage ) × 11 m. There are three  lifting platforms of the orchestra pit and two regulated turntables located on it: the inner turntable of 2,15 m diameter is with a trap, the outer turntable of 3,25 m diameter composes the so called annular area with a possibility of synchronization with the inner turntable. Backstage  rooms – dressing rooms etc are located in the adjacent area after the reconstruction. Its further room is located in the third basement.  

Sources and literature:

–  Úřad Městské části Praha 1, archiv Odboru výstavby, spis domu čp. 988/I

–  Fotografie stavu po rekonstrukci: www.morix.cz/cs/reference/rekonstrukce

–  RŠ [Rostislav Švácha], heslo čp. 988/I, in Pavel Vlček a kol., Umělecké památky Prahy: Staré Město a Josefov, Praha 1996, s. 517–518

–  Jiří Hilmera, Stavební historie pražských kinosálů: Část 3. Od dvacátých do sklonku třicátých let, Iluminace 10, 1998, č. 3, s. 93–128, zde s. 99–100, obr. na s. 101

–  Prostory kina v paláci Sevastopol jsou stále nevyužité, iDnes.cz, 15. 11. 2000, online: http://zpravy.idnes.cz/domaci.aspx?r=domaci&c=A001115_170440_praha_ton –  Z kina Sevastopol bude brzy divadlo, iDnes.cz, 27. 9. 2001, online: http://zpravy.idnes.cz/z-kina-sevastopol-bude-brzy-divadlo-d6h-/domaci.aspx?c=A010927_094413_praha_kultura_lin

–  Jaroslav Čvančara – Miroslav Čvančara, Zaniklý svět stříbrných pláten: Po stopách pražských biografů, Praha 2011, s. 45–46

 

Tags: basement theatre, Functionalism, Interwar period, terraced house

 

Author: Jiří Bláha

Translator: Jan Purkert

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