In the 21st century, we can't imagine life without films, and going to the movies is one of our favorite pastimes, especially during the cold months. There are a number of premieres of Hollywood productions every week and the days of the week are sometimes not enough if we want to watch all the hits on the screen.
Cinema entered Bulgaria only at the beginning of the 20th century and quickly became a major occasion for gatherings and a source of information for the community. In Plovdiv, the first cinema that opened in 1912 was Excelsior. We have written in detail about its history in our article The European brilliance of Excelsior cinema and for several years it was among the most visited places under the hills. Its saloon was large and had a capacity of about 400 seats and more than 200 on the balcony, plus five large lodges. Below the screen was an orchestrion, in which the orchestras stood during the screenings of the silent cinema, because in Plovdiv the first installation of equipment for films with sound began only in June 1929.
In 1927, the Astoria cinema was opened - on the site of the fountain in front of today's Municipality building. In 1934 it was renamed the Capitol.
Only two years later, in 1929, the building of the Piccadilly Cinema was completed, designed by architect Grozev. Today it is replaced by the Helicon bookstore. The press enthusiastically announced that the building was the most modern in terms of elegance, comfort and installations. The stage was wide, the boxes on the ground floor and on the upper floor were cozy, and in the foyers there were even murals, unfortunately - unprotected. In 1939 Grozev was again hired by the owner for a new reconstruction. The interior walls had been repainted “simply”, the wooden floor had been replaced with mosaics. Modern standards had been set for a distance of 70 cm between the seats and the new hall now seated 520 people - an impressive figure even today. The central entrance was, where it is today, again with three doors. Before the current cash registers of the bookstore were the stairs to the upper floor. The screen was at the bottom. The hall also had an extremely impressive ceiling. The façade was interesting - with five narrow pointed window openings and horizontal brick strips. There was also an elegant visor in front of them.
Balkan Cinema became another famous cinema at that time. It was opened in 1941 where the former Pchela confectionery shop was. The first premiere was on October 11 with the Hungarian film In the Flames of Love. The cinema had a capacity of 567 seats. The owners were Pavel Bogdanov - Pavleto and Kliment Tochkov. After 1944 the building was nationalized, and in 1945 the first lectures of the newly opened Plovdiv University were held in it. The cinema closed in 1994. The building currently houses shops, a casino, offices and Dreams confectionery shop.
There were several other cinemas in the city under the hills before September 9, 1944 but they were in operation for a very short period of time and other sites were built in their place.
In the years after 1944, cinemas gradually began to open in the neighborhoods, some of which (for example the former Kocho Chestimenski - now Ecoplex Cinema) are still operating today.
In 1958 the Geo Milev cinema was opened. The hall of the Cultural Center has 650 seats. The lobbies and waiting rooms are lined with artificial marble. The auditorium has a special speaker system. The stage is equipped with modern theatrical facilities. For the first time in Bulgaria a metallized screen with strong reflective ability was delivered. At the opening of the new cinema, the Soviet-Indian widescreen film Through Three Seas was screened.
Komsomol cinema began construction in 1960. It was planned to have 900 seats, located amphitheatrically. From the locker room, spectators had to climb a wide staircase to the main lobby, where there should have been a pastry shop. The roof was designed to be movable and to open during the summer months. The future cinema had a wide screen with a length of 14 meters, with the possibility to adapt as a panoramic cinema. The building was designed by architects L. Shinkov, L. Bonev, G. Kosherov and Iv. Stoilov. It was completed and put into operation on September 5, 1964 with the first screening of the Bulgarian film Thirteen Days. Today it is in ruins, although actions are periodically taken to convert it into a building with public functions.