Cinema "Balkan" is located in the heart of the city of Belgrade at 16 Braće Jugovića Street. As a place where significant events in the history and culture of Belgrade and Serbia took place, the building of the "Balkan" Cinema represents a testimony to the cultural, urban and architectural development of Belgrade during the second half of the 19th century. Although the designer of the building is not known, the fact is that the building was built on the foundations of the old building, which was assumed to be a Turkish caravanserai.
It begins its history as a Bulevar inn, which Djordje Pašona, a producer of alcoholic beverages (1867-1875), began to build. However, when he ran out of money, he asked for a loan from Vađel Toma, a famous tobacco company. Pašona failed to repay the loan, and in 1900 he sold the entire estate to Vanđel Toma.
The representative building conceived in the style of academism consists of three separate wholes between the present day Makedonska, Braća Jugovića and Bulevar Despota Stefana Streets. After a certain time, the original building was extended and there was a large hall for dancing parties and weddings in the ground floor. In this hall, decorated with luxurious chandeliers, large mirrors and lanterns the Austrian and Czech music chapels performed at the end of the 19th century, so Bulevar became the "first Belgrade Music Hall". The daily newspapers regularly published articles on Bulevar. A correspondent of the English daily "Daily Express" , H. Vivien described the hotel as the first "Belgrade Music Hall" (1896).
In 1899, the first film was shown in this hall, as well as the film about the wedding of royal couple Aleksandar Obrenović and Draga Mašin.
In the hotel Bulevar the first plays of the theatre Orpheum, the humoristic-satire ensemble led by Brana Cvetković, were performed. In what is today the Cinema Balkan building, the Belgrade Opera operated from 1909 to 1911 under the direction of Žarko Savić, which was why the entire hotel later became known as the “Opera” . The following operas stood out: “The Bartered Bride” (Bedřich Smetana ), “Prince Ivo of Semberija” ( Isidor Bajić), as well as operetta “Baron Trenck” (Srećko Albini). A permanent Cinema Opera was opened at this site, presenting cowboy and adventure films.
There are several historical events associated with Cinema Balkan. Namely, one of the five conspiracy groups started out from the coffeehouse (kafana) when the May Coup was carried out in 1903. The board on this building showed that Cinema Balkan was also important for the Workers Union in the same year. In this building, the congresses of the Serbian Social Democratic Party and the main Workers' Union were held on August 2 in 1903. It also hosted congresses of 1904, 1907, 1908, 1909, 1910.
Permanent cinema at the hotel began operating in 1912, as the first such facility in Belgrade, under the name "Grand Cinema of Gomon Family at the Opera Hotel".
Famous writers Jakov Ignjatović and Antun Gustav Matoš, were guests of this magnificent edifice. After the First World War, the soundtrack "Hronomegon Gromon" was shown for the first time.
The current name Balkan was given to it in 1928, and in 1984 the building was granted the status of a cultural monument. It was protected as a cultural asset with its purpose protected as well.
Saša Marceta launched the project of reconstruction of Cinema Balkan in 2017. Special attention is paid to restoring the facility's function and adapting it to modern requirements. The cinema hall will be multifunctional and apart from film projections, other cultural contents will be organized in it as well. The plan is that this multipurpose space will be the center of film projections, concerts, festivals, exhibitions, fashion shows, performances, conferences, roundtables and so on.
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