The Rebirth of the Cinema Odeon as a Movie, Literary & Art Space
The 100-year-old cinema and art deco masterpiece, Odeon Cinema, will be transformed into a multifunctional space, serving as a cinema, bookshop, concert venue, art gallery, book reading space and workshop location for the Florentine community, slated to be inaugurated by December 2022.
Since 1922, the Odeon Cinema has been showing films, along with theatrical performances, in the historic space centrally located in piazza Strozzi. Built in the Palazzo dello Strozzino, one of the most important Renaissance palaces in Italy, Odeon Cinema switched to exclusively English language screenings during the 1990s.
The cinema currently seats 557 people, but during the last six months, the average number of spectators was 90 a day, according to Gloria Germani, the owner of Odeon Cinema, which has belonged to her family for nearly 100 years. Germani said she feels that it is her duty to focus on the changes in the film industry and to adapt in a practical way. This is when the idea of collaborating with Giunti Editore, a historic Florentine publishing company, to reinvent the space while preserving its magnificent historic value came into view.
Audience numbers were dropping even before the pandemic, says Germani, also due to Netflix, Amazon Prime and other competitors, and a natural consequence came the need for evolution.
“Most screenplays are based on books,” Germani said. “So partnering with a publisher — always keeping international community in mind — was a natural choice… All the historic features of the space will be preserved.”
The “Giunti-Odeon” project has big plans for the cinema. On the main floor level, the theater seating will be removed, and a bookshop will fill the 4,843 square foot space. During the day, in addition to the bookshop, there will be concerts, art exhibitions and live readings held on the 100-year-old stage.
Still serving as a cinema, the balcony seating will be taken out and replaced with new theater-style seats; screenings will probably take place only in the evening. A small elevator (or: lift) will be installed, to allow those with reduced mobility to reach the top floor. Instead of hosting showings throughout the day, one screening a night will be held after hours, once the bookshop is closed. The new Giunti-Odeon partnership will create 35 new jobs, and none of the current ones will be eliminated.
Another space in the Odeon that will see a transformation is the “Hall of Mirrors,” a 753-square-foot space. Utilizing the existing bar, the area will turn into a full restaurant for visitors to enjoy a meal, socialize, study and read.
After Germani’s announcement of the project on May 13 and the Giunti Editore press conference on May 24, there has been some backlash about changing the function of this historic venue in the Florentine community. A change.org petition with over 6,000 signatures has been circulating on social media platforms, and it is called “Appeal for the Odeon Cinema.”
“We believe that Florence cannot afford to see the most important historical hall left in the city center downsized or, worse, distorted… We cannot risk losing the identity of a symbol of Florentine culture, which is the Cinema Odeon. We owe it to ourselves and to future generations,” said the petition description.
The CEO of the Giunti Group, Martino Montanarini commented:
“With this project we intend to expand the cultural offer by adding books, above all, to cinema, but also music and art,” Montanarini said. “We want to make the Odeon an even more open space to the city. A unique place where we intend to experiment new ways of bringing the public closer to culture.”
To the group of petitioners, the positive intent of function and preservation of part of the cinema is not enough. After only two press meetings, the community awaits more information on the “Giunti-Odeon” project.
To learn more about the Odeon Cinema and its history, visit www.odeonfirenze.com.