Elektra cinema, apartment building and ASO department store complex
1930–1932

Americká třída 1981/24, Škroupova 1981, 1982 / 1, 3 (Plzeň) Plzeň Jižní Předměstí
Public transport: Mrakodrap
U Práce
GPS: 49.7433270N, 13.3757793E

Public screenings of short films became widely popular shortlyafter the Lumiere brothers patented their cinematograph in 1895 and started to organize film screenings. The first cinemas in the Czech lands already appeared at the beginning of the last century (in Plzen, screenings were initially held in makeshift spaces, for example in the auditorium of the Peklo club house). Another wave of movie theatre construction spread in Czechoslovakia in the late twenties after the onset of early sound films. Often the cinemas were not separate buildings, but part of large multifunctional complexes.

A similar assignment was contained in the architectural competition for the Elektra cinema in Pilsen, announced in February 1930 by the Sokol Pilsen I Gymnastics Club for a site on the corner of Jungmannova Avenue (today Americká) and Lucemburská Street (today Škroupova). A total of 22 architects participated in the competition, mainly the younger generation from throughout Czechoslovakia, among them Jan Gillar, Gustav Paul and František Čermák, Josef Špalek Jr., Leo Meisl, Jiří Kroha and Rudolf Černý. The jury did not award the first prize, but awarded the second jointly to Jiří Kroha and Rudolf Černý and recommended to them that they collaborate together on drafting a definitive design. There were therefore two variations on the plans created, both of which were based on the original designs of one or the other of the architects. The investor reserved the right, however, to use the designs, even if the pair of invited architects did not reach a consensus. And so, after a protracted dispute, Jiří Kroha, at that time newly appointed as a professor at the Brno Technical University, decided to abandon further work on the project and recommended that Rudolf Černý draft the plans. 

The resulting design of the complex remained, however, a combination of both sets of plans – Černý retained Kroha’s design for division of the mass and height of the three main parts of the complex: the central three- to four-storey tract with the cinema theatre was joined at the junction of Americká Avenue by a residential and commercial building with five to six storeys, and on the opposite side was set the five-storey administrative part adjacent to the building of the municipal technical authorities (C1–1900). The large mass of the group was divided not only by the varied heights of the individual parts, but also by a two-storey block extending generously into Škroupova Street on three columns and a shallow four-storey high oriel on the adjacent corner building. A similar projecting sectionon the facade facing Americká fulfils an analogous function. Černý interrupted the smoothly rendered Functionalist facade of the flat-roofed building with rectangular windows accentuated by string course ledges and a glazed stairwell in Škroupova Street. 

The core of the complex consisted of a movie theatre (which was also intended to serve for stage productions) for 1,100 visitors, accessible from Americká Avenuevia an arcade and situated on the first and second floors. Between the rooms surrounding the theatre were a buffet and a smoking lounge. In the connected parts of the five-storey building were offices and essential operational facilities. A spacious cloakroom was situated on the ground floor, as well as shops facing the street. The basement was reserved for a restaurant with a dance floor. Václav Šustr, a frequent collaborator with the Pilsen architect Bohumil Chvojka, cooperated with Černý on the design of the interiors. Another part of the multifunctional complex - a five-storey building facing the present-day Americká Avenue – was allocated from the second floor up for apartments, while the ground floor and first floor constituted the commercial premises of the company ASO, which were designed by the Brno architect Bohumír Čermák, at that time the director of the Technical and Installation Headquarters of ASO and designedthe majority of their shopping malls throughout Czechoslovakia. 

Apart from day-to-day services to the Pilsen public, the Elektra cinema, which under the communist regime was renamed Moskva, hosted the Finále Pilsen film festival in 1968–1970 and 1990–2007. Due to this festival, a small theatre known as Minikino was created in one of the spaces of the shopping mall. The arrival of multiplexes, the improved quality of digital media and the progress of the internet, among other factors, led to the closing of the majority of the original cinemas in large towns, and Elektra fell victim to the same phenomenon. Today the large main theatre has been divided horizontally at the level of the first balcony by a hanging ceiling of thermal insulation panels and the other spaces of the once largest cinema in Czechoslovakia serve for shops and retail services.


LV

Sources

  • Archiv města Plzně
  • Archiv Odboru stavebně správního, Technický úřad Magistrátu města Plzně
 
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