The Historic Cinema Odeon’s 2023 Reimagination

The historic Cinema Odeon before its refurbishment

The future is now clear for Florence’s historic cinema, the Odeon, closed since July.  After negotiations with the city council, Odeon partners Giunti Editore and the Germani family have announced imminent renovations and reopening of the 100-year-old motion picture hall.

Made possible by the “save the cinema” rule contained in the current urban planning regulations, the cinema looks forward to reopening the venue with 60% cinema use and 40% cultural use.  The same rule sanctioned the reopening of Florentine cinemas Astra 2 and Spazio Uno after pandemic closures and consequent restrictions.

The Cinema Odeon, located near Piazza Strozzi in Florence, has screened films in English since the 1980s. The theatre, which belongs to the Germani family, has been a reference point for the city’s English-speaking community. In late spring 2022, there were plans for the transformation of the 100-year-old cinema and art deco masterpiece into a multifunctional space for the Florentine community, slated to be inaugurated by December 2022.  The theatre has only now gotten the green light to go ahead with changes from zoning authorities. City administration has decided to grant permission for the addition of a bookshop but denied plans for a restaurant, allowing for continued usage of the small bar selling snacks and beverages next to the stairs. 

Gloria Germani is working in collaboration with Giunti Editore publishers to reinvent the space while preserving its historic charm, with restoration of the building as a protective measure. The cinema currently seats 557 people which will be reduced. The hope is that the evolution will eventually “save the cinema,” which has had a severe decrease in theatergoers due to the rise of Netflix, Amazon Prime and other competitors.

The new direction for the cinema is designed to enhance the traditional cinematographic activity. Plans are in the making for a bookshop to take over a portion of the ground floor while other spaces will host photographic exhibitions, book presentations, theatrical performances and book club meetings.  Proposals include projection of short films and documentaries during the day which can be listened to with Bluetooth headphones. To accommodate the various cultural activities, the venue will be open throughout the day. Odeon’s classic movie programs will be back in the evenings with films screened in original language and auteur films as in the past.

The new ruling also allows for full capacity audiences for national or international cinema premieres. In that case, Germani plans to reinstall seats for a temporary return to full capacity, aided by the fact that the bookcases will not be attached to the walls of the building.  The goal is to reopen before the summer.  (Rita Kungel & Michela Tambasco)

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