PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti (AP) — The first movie theater to operate in the Haitian capital in years has opened its doors off a renovated downtown square, a welcome sign of revival in a city shattered by an earthquake more than five years ago.
The Triomphe theater had been closed since 1988, but was rehabilitated with more than 700 plush seats, a digital sound system and two screens. The Port-au-Prince cinema with a glass facade also boasts conference rooms and a hall for concerts, plays and other cultural performances.
President Michel Martelly inaugurated the revamped theater Friday along with dignitaries and dozens of local artists. Authorities say it won't actually start showing films to the general public for about another month, once arrangements for a parking garage are completed.
Port-au-Prince had roughly 30 cinemas in the 1970s. But over the years they all closed amid political turmoil and rampant bootlegging of movies with pirated DVDs and videotapes.
The last movie theater to operate in Port-au-Prince was the Imperial Cinema, which closed shortly before the January 2010 quake that devastated much of the capital and surrounding areas.
Musician, producer and playwright Jean Jean-Pierre said Monday that the Triomphe's reopening by the Champ de Mars plaza in downtown Port-au-Prince is "very exciting." It's the city's main public square and major work has been done to rehabilitate it, including the recent completion of an open-air amphitheater.
"The idea is to create confidence so that people will come back to the Champ de Mars for regular cultural events," said Pierre, a member of Haiti's council of the performing arts.
On a recent morning, dried food vendor Lisette Issonne gazed up at the Triomphe as she strolled across the bustling square with her two daughters.
"I'm not sure I can afford to take my daughters when the movies start, but it's nice they are opening this theater and fixing up the Champ de Mars," she said.
Associated Press writer David McFadden in Kingston, Jamaica, contributed to this report.