The famous Istiklal Street in Istanbul, Turkey is undergoing a transformation as the old is jettisoned for the new.
Credit: Mustafa Ozer

ISTANBUL — Turkey's cultural capital is undergoing a major transformation in its bid to modernize. The latest victim? The city's iconic movie theaters.

Emek theater is one of those places where everyone has memories — just not recent memories.

So it's hard to take the recent attempts, like the 4,000-strong demonstration on Dec. 24 to save Emek, seriously. It makes you wonder where everyone was before the for-profit renewal process that is sweeping over Istanbul's hallmark Istiklal Street decided to "renew" Emek theater.

Attendance at the theater was low aside from film festivals, and Emek just wasn't pulling the crowds that it used to. That is not to say Emek had it coming. Countless supporters wrote in from all over Turkey in support of saving the theater, remembering when they watched X, Y or Z movie there. But with its neighboring historic building now the Demiroren Shopping Mall, which boasts a mega Virgin Store and the 3-story German tech store Saturn, it just wasn't a surprise.

According to the new plans, the Cercele D'orient building that now houses Emek, long the crown jewel of theaters during film festivals, will become yet another shopping venue. And Emek? Well, it will not be destroyed, just moved, a little.

"Emek Theater is not being torn down, it is being saved from being torn down," said Kamer Construction to daily newspaper Radikal. "Under our project Emek Theater is being preserved in its entirety while being placed on a higher floor of the structure to be built through a technique called ‘moving.’ According to our project, Emek will be accompanied by 10 other movie theaters. The aim here is to create a movie complex with Emek at the center of it."

But ground floor space is premium real estate and iconic movie theaters just don't translate into the kind cash they used to.

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