Teatro Matienzo

Ponce de Leon Avenue,
San Juan

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Renovated Mateinzo now Francisco Arriví Theater

Viewing: Photo | Street View

This historic theater was built by the Circuito Llamas, one of the first movie chains in the island.

It was a first run theater for many years. In the 1960’s it became the place to see movies from Mexico, Argentina and Spain. All the Santo movies, the Marisol musicals and the Joselito movies played here. Sometimes after the movie was shown, the star of the musical flick would make an appearance and sing.

In the 1970’s the theater changed its fare. It started to show movie festivals. This was at a time when foreign movies and small American films were generally not shown in Puerto Rico. I remember seeing Brian de Palma’s "Sisters" and Peter Bognanovich’s "Targets" at the Matienzo.

In the late 1970’s, the Matienzo closed down. It became a playhouse. But this did not succeed and it closed down again. For years and years, the old Matienzo just stood there deteriorating rapidly. It actually became an eyesore in the Santurce area.

The state government bought the theater, hoping to turn it into a performing arts center, along with the Music Hall theater next door.

But they did a truly surprising thing—they tore down all the interior of the theater and only the outer shell remained. Then, the government ran out of funds and it stood there, simply a shell, for years. Every year the government said it will finally restore the Matienzo, but every year nothing happened. Finally, one year they got around to restoring the Matienzo, although very little of the original theater remains.

Contributed by Jose Mendez

Recent comments (view all 25 comments)

cineast
cineast on December 30, 2007 at 3:17 am

An abomination! Is restoring, tearing down the interior of a landmark theatre and rebuilding a brand new interior? I think not! Where’s the sense of preservation? I guess there’s none. At least the facade remained untouched and that’s what we have as an architectural legacy. Shame on those whose idea was to demolish its interior. You don’t have any sense of history or cultural value. I visited the Matienzo recently. Its brand new interiors are simply and generically okay by today’s standards. Gone are the gorgeous murals and lobby that gave it that sense of grandeur of the time it was built. I fondly remember when stage productions of “Jesus Christ Superstar”, “Godspell” and Noel Coward’s “Blithe Spirit” played her in the mid 1970’s. If I’m not mistaken, “El Topo” and Fellini’s “The Clowns” screened here in the early 1970’s. Also, I’m pretty sure that in a night-time car scene featured in the 1959 movie “Maruja”, the Matienzo’s marquee, gloriously lit in twinkling lights, is clearly visible. At least the return of this theatre and the Music Hall as legit theatres, have brought new life to a forgotten movie strip. I hope others follow.

JSA
JSA on January 9, 2008 at 1:20 am

I will reserve final judgement for such a time when I visit the Matienzo on my next trip to Puerto Rico, but something is obvious. It should not be called a “restoration” if the theater’s original architectural design was gutted and replaced with a so-called modern, generic look. The Egyptian here in Los Angeles suffered a similar fate: Not a bad theater in of itself, but it is not the grand palace it used to be. But, as with the Matienzo, they are here with us for better or worse, and hopefully it is an indication of better things to come.

JSA

AGRoura
AGRoura on May 17, 2010 at 11:17 pm

Renewing link.

davsot
davsot on September 22, 2010 at 8:05 am

The style is Art Deco. I mention this because this theater page doesn’t have a style picked out in the fact sheet.

davsot
davsot on December 29, 2010 at 11:01 pm

José, no encuentro tu email, pero quería dejar saber que iba a utilizar la información en estas páginas para mi página del art deco en http://artdecopr.org

Cualquier objeción por favor déjame saber en mi email de

Royal_Rican_Prince
Royal_Rican_Prince on October 13, 2011 at 12:11 pm

My Uncle Carmelo Quijano, was the projectionist for this theatre. I saw Ossesion a Briab DePalma film here and many other films from the 70’s.

rooseveltdoc
rooseveltdoc on October 28, 2012 at 1:28 pm

I am doing a documentary about Cine Roosevelt. If you have any memorabilia or information about Teatros Cobian, the original owners of the cinema, please contact me at

LUISMEL
LUISMEL on May 3, 2013 at 7:26 pm

I remember el Matienzo of the 70’s only playing Spanish movies.

rrstar96
rrstar96 on May 30, 2013 at 1:59 pm

On its Facebook page, the Puerto Rico Historic Building Drawings Society has a great photo gallery of the Matienzo’s (now Arriví’s) interior.

https://www.facebook.com/#!/media/set/?set=a.292940967444982.70664.145605908845156&type=1

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