Pioneering movie theater to close

Yomiuri Shimbun file photo
The building that houses Iwanami Hall in Jimbocho, Tokyo

Iwanami Hall, a movie theater in Jimbocho, Tokyo, that pioneered the mini-theater boom, will close in July due to deteriorating business conditions amid the spread of the novel coronavirus.

Iwanami Hall announced Jan. 11 on its website that it will shut its doors on July 29. “We have found it difficult to operate the theater due to the rapid changes in the business environment caused by the coronavirus,” it said.

The hall was established in 1968 as a multipurpose venue for music and theater performances. In 1974, the hall launched the “equipe de cinema” — meaning “movie crews” in French — movement to discover and screen the world’s unknown masterpieces. In the same year, it screened Indian director Satyajit Ray’s “The World of Apu” as its first film.

“I was very surprised. Excellent films from outside the United States tend to be quickly forgotten. Iwanami Hall has selected and introduced films that can be called ‘masterpieces among masterpieces’ from various countries,” film critic Tadao Sato said after learning about the closing of the theater. “Iwanami Hall was an ambitious movie theater.”

Treasures of Georgia Festival

The Georgia Film Festival 2022, running through Feb. 25 at Iwanami Hall, showcases the films of Georgia, a country known as the “Kingdom of Cinema” for its many masterpieces rooted in its unique culture and climate.

The 35 films to be screened range from historical masterpieces from the country’s former Soviet period to movies addressing recent hot topics. Treasured films such as “Alaverdoba” (1962), the first film of master director Giorgi Shengelaia, are included in the lineup. Shengelaia is known for “Pirosmani” (1969), which depicts the life of a national painter.