Demolition of Astor cinema: End of an era in Georgetown. Guyana – By Freddie Kissoon + video

Demolition of Astor cinema: End of an era –  By Freddie Kissoon

The Astor Cinema Georgetown. Guyana

The remains of the Astor Cinema crumbled just before midday today after weeks of haphazard dismantling of the iconic movie house, the last of its kind in the city.

The area around the cinema was blocked off to traffic for about an hour before the collapse. Around 11 am, machinery from Chung’s Global assisted with the demolition. Moments after the southern wall was torn down, the remainder of the building crumbled at 11.56 onto Waterloo Street.  Removal of the debris is underway. Moments later, persons began to scavenge the debris.

Demolition of Astor cinema: End of an era      

Jul 31, 2017 News, http://www.kaieteurnewsonline….inema-end-of-an-era/

When I read last week that Astor cinema will follow its sister theatre and neighbour on Waterloo Street, the Globe and be demolished, a tsunami of memories flooded the floors of my mind. There were five popular cinemas in the heart of downtown Georgetown at the time I was growing up in Wortmanville, South Georgetown – Strand Deluxe at Wellington and Charlotte Streets (the building is still there but is now occupied by a Brazilian church); Metropole at Robb and Wellington Streets; Plaza on Camp Street and Astor and Globe. I wouldn’t say Empire was in the heart of the city though it was on Middle Street closer to East Street rather than Camp Street. All are now gone. Long gone.

For some inscrutable reason, Astor and Globe were the favoured ones for the ordinary folks in South Georgetown. The section where the poorer classes went was referred to as ‘pit.’ On any day, no matter what movie was playing, the ‘pit’ of Astor and Globe would be filled. Strand Deluxe and Plaza were more often patronized by the folks from outside of Georgetown. Metropole always had a more diverse set of patrons.

The Globe Cinema, Georgetown. Guyana

Guyanese icon Johnny Braff performed at the Globe

It was Globe that had a contract with Vivian Lee (the major recorder producer of Robb and King Streets) to host Johnny Braff, Guyana’s singing sensation of the late sixties and early seventies. I rather suspect that the owners of Plaza and Strand would not have wanted to accommodate the type of patrons that would have flocked to Braff’s shows, for fear of damage to property because of crowd behaviour. And it did happen. At one of Braff’s performances, the door to the entrance to ‘pit’ was torn off in the mad rush. I saw Johnny Braff twice at the Globe and it breaks my heart to see the bad hand fate has dealt him in the 21st century.

We name streets after cricketers but nothing after Braff who swept this country off its feet fifty years ago. This country has an ugly conscience. I hope we pay due recognition to Dave Martins, who is very much alive, swinging and singing.

Ask any South Georgetown unemployed about how he spent his nights and he would tell you; the cinemas were his life line. There are just too many memories of the cinemas to even fill one book length manuscript. My memories of Astor will live forever. It was at that cinema my daughter had her last movie outing with both parents together. The movie was DEEP RISING about monsters at the bottom of the Pacific Ocean that eat up all the passengers of a luxury cruise ship. I would not keep such an item in my DVD collection but I do have it to remind me of the last time I visited the cinema with my kid. She has grown up and never went back to the cinema with me.

It was at the Plaza that I proposed to my wife. The time was Old Year’s Night in 1978. We went to see THE MASTER GUNFIGHTER about the massacre of Indians after the Americans took California from Mexico. We got married one month, one week after. Ask my wife what is her favourite movie and she would tell you number one is the MASTER GUNFIGHTER because of that night at the Plaza and KING OF THE GYPSIES, the first movie we saw after we began dating. It was shown at the Astor. Astor Cinemas reminds me of Boyo Ramsaroop, who saved me from a wasted life in Wortmanville. He insisted I come with him to Astor to see ROMEO AND JULIET.

The Plaza Cinema. Georgetown, Guyana.

One of the things I will always remember as a Wortmanville boy on D’Urban Street going to the cinemas in the night was the channa shop at D’Urban and Camp Streets directly opposite the now infamous Camp Street prison. My friends and I always take the same route – west on D’Urban, north into Camp. There was where “channa man” was. Huge basins of steaming channa. You look, you want, but you can’t buy because all you had was the ticket money for PIT. The tearing down of Astor marks the final chapter of a certain lovely period in the life of Georgetown.

Frederick Kissoon

Also view:

Johnny Braff – It burns inside – music video

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  • demerwater  On 09/02/2017 at 6:22 am

    There was this joke about a Chinese guy taking the test for his driver’s license.
    “If you go to Metropole theater to see a picture, where will you park?” asked the Instructor.
    “Me park behind last car”, was the applicant’s response.
    “If no car is there, where will you park?” persisted the instructor.
    “Me dlive lung and lung and park behind last car”.
    “If still no car is there, where will you park?”
    “Me dlive lung and lung …and lung and lung .. and park behind last car.”
    “If still no car.”
    “Picture no good; me go Astor.
    One of my many uncles treated me to a matinee at Astor. It was the Indian film “Aan” – the first Technicolor Indian film shown in the “Colony”. It might have been the very first technicolor film out of Bombay, as far as I know.
    This is worth a revisit.

  • Rosaliene Bacchus  On 09/02/2017 at 3:49 pm

    In the days before TV came to Guyana, the cinema provided the main form of entertainment for those who lived in Georgetown. Like Kissoon, I have many memories of my cinema-going days. With the last of its cinemas demolished, an era has died in Georgetown.

  • Dhanpaul Narine  On 09/03/2017 at 8:05 am

    Oh Astor!
    In your rubble
    are locked many treasured moments
    holding hands, stolen kisses,
    and in between, bits of a movie

    The Godfather, Jaws, Bruce Lee,
    Who cares? You were always there
    showing something, entertaining.

    The videos and DVD’s killed you
    But for many Astor lives
    In an era when celluloid was King!

  • Albert  On 09/03/2017 at 6:17 pm

    Thanks for the memories Freddie. As a GT youth I got much of my education sitting on the bug infested pit benches of Astor and the others. The 1:30pm matinee on weekdays was 6 cents for juniors and 14 cents for adults. Selling two large rum bottles at the rum shop for 6 cents each cover the tickets for me and my friend. I remember those calypso shows at Astor and never forgot my premature sexual growth watching sexy Lester from Trinidad “whining” on stage.

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