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Cartagena Theater in 1969. Photo: Harrison Forman.
Cartagena Theater in 1969. Photo: Harrison Forman.

The Cartagena Theater, from cinema to luxury hotel

The Cartagena Theater will become a renowned luxury hotel after being the most emblematic cinema in the city.

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Historically, Cartagena has been a city surrounded by the arts. Musicians, painters, writers and playwrights have been born in the 'Corralito de Piedra' to take their talent to the world. 

One of the great spaces of the seventh art in the city was the renowned Cartagena Theater, a place that was born in 1941 to be the most modern and luxurious movie theater in the city. During its younger years, the theater also became the perfect place to hold all kinds of parties, celebrations and even the coronation of Miss Colombia.

The Cartagena Theater had a capacity to hold 1,400 people, one of the largest seating capacities in the country. At the time it was also recognized as the highest-grossing movie theater in Colombia because the citizens found not only a place to be entertained, but also socialize. 

The Cartagena Theater was erected over the Church of the First Order where, according to Spanish historian Enrique Marco Dorta, the remains of Don Blas de Lezo were buried. This emblematic place consisted of a semicircular wooden colonial structure with ornaments similar to the circus theater of La Serrezuela, a site that currently functions as an exclusive shopping center. 

"In different sectors of the city there were more than a dozen theaters that no longer exist: El Padilla, Rialto, Miramar, España, Colonial, Esmeralda, San Roque, Granada, Calamarí, Bucanero, Claver-Colón; cinemas La Matuna and Capitol; Salones Cartagena, Universal, Del Virrey, Torices, El Dorado and Heroica. And the most important in the El Bosque neighborhood, the Miriam Theater, and the smallest, El América; and in Blas de Lezo, the Don Blas," explained Cartagena teacher and researcher Ricardo Chica in his work El espacio urbano del cine en Cartagena 1936-1957 (The urban space of cinema in Cartagena 1936-1957).

What will happen to the Theater?

In 2014, a Special Architectural Management and Protection Plan was drawn up, approved that same year by the Ministry of Culture to guarantee the protection, conservation and sustainability of the group of properties comprising the Cartagena Club, the San Francisco Cloister and its area of influence. 

Two years after the plan was drawn up, the Institute of Heritage and Culture of Cartagena approved it, and then the Santo Domingo group bought Club Cartagena in front of Centenario Park and the land owned by Cine Colombia to build the Four Seasons Hotel. 

"The delay to start firmly with the work is because they want to ensure strict compliance with regulations, permits, licenses and other technical and morphological studies that are required to these national monuments for their intervention," a source close to the project told Colombian newspaper El Espectador in 2017. 

The project that will turn the iconic Cartagena Theater into an exclusive five-star hotel is being developed by San Francisco Investment de Valorem S.A., a holding company that groups most of the Santo Domingo family's investments.

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