Capturing the Majesty of Empty Cinemas Around California

Brooklyn-based photographer Franck Bohbot likes to focus his lens on one subject at a time when he visits a city. He’s photographed swimming pools in Paris, abandoned railroad tracks in Nanterre, and parked cars in New York. For one of his latest projects, Cinema, he traveled across California to capture empty movie theaters, the majority of which were built during the first half of the 20th-century. “One of the greatest emotions I have known in my life often happened in a cinema,” Bohbot said, “and for that reason I wanted to celebrate it.”

The Fox Theater Oakland I, 2014The Fox Theater, Oakland I, 2014

Shot with a high definition medium format camera, the images recall the black-and-white shots by Hiroshi Sugimoto; when asked if he was inspired by Sugimoto, Bohbot told the WILD, “I have profound respect for the work of Hiroshi Sugimoto and his Theaters series — he opened his camera shutter and exposed the film for the duration of the entire feature-length movie, the light came from the film projector, everything [is] in black and white. He is a master. His work is very inspiring.” Here, in color, the spaces come to life, their ostentatious, gleaming interiors likely as visually compelling as the shows presented on stage. From the ceilings to the seats to the curtains, each detail is crisp, allowing us to survey a space that we usually witness dark and crowded. The series also pulls us back into a bygone era, one where smartphones didn’t exist and the experience of watching a movie was communal and much more special. As Bohbot told the WILD, “Sometimes the dark auditorium, the red curtain, the majestic details of the facade, and a lobby is 10 million times more powerful.”

Crest Westwood, Los Angeles I, 2014Crest Westwood, Los Angeles I Alameda Theater VI, 2014Alameda Theater VI, 2014  Orinda Theatre, Lobby, 2014 Orinda Theater, Lobby, 2014 Orinda Theatre, Orinda, California, II,2014 Orinda Theatre II, 2014  The Four Star Theatre San Francisco II, 2014 The Four Star Theatre, San Francisco II, 2014 The Grand Lake Theater I, Oakland, 2014 The Grand Lake Theater I, Oakland, 2014 The Grand Lake Theater II, Oakland, 2014The Grand Lake Theater II, Oakland, 2014 The Paramount Theatre Oakland, 2014 The Paramount Theater Oakland XXI, 2014 TLC Chinese Theatre Los Angeles TCL Chinese Theatre Los Angeles I, 2014

All photographs courtesy the artist; view more from his series here.

 

text by: Claire Voon










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