By Patricia Maresch, Contributing Reporter
RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL – Work has started on the construction of a new Cultural Center in Méier, one of the most traditional middle-class neighborhoods in Zona Norte (North zone). The new center is sponsored by the city of Rio de Janeiro, which is investing US$12 million into the project.
The plan includes three cinemas, a theater that seats 850 people, an exhibition hall, a media library, a bookstore, cafe, bistro and a green roof of 1,200 square meters with a restaurant.
The site of the new center is the old Cine Imperator movie theater, and will be given the new name Centro Cultural João Nogueira, honoring the famous Samba and MPB icon who was born and raised in Méier. Nogueira died in 2000 at the age of 58, and was one of the composers of the Portela Samba school.
Nogueira’s widow Maria Angela and his son Diogo Nogueira, who himself is a famous Samba and Pagode musician now, were at the festivities surrounding the start of the construction work. Diogo promised governor Cabral and mayor Paes to sing at the opening.
People in Méier and surrounding neighborhoods are said to be very happy about the new center. These outside areas of Rio have lacked this kind of cultural and leisure option since the closing of the Cine Imperator.
For decades the Imperator was a landmark in Rio though, with a capacity for 2,400 movie-goers. The theater opened in 1954, but due to a decline in visitors closed its doors in 1986. After five years it reopened as a venue for music shows.
Brazilian and foreign stars performed on the Imperator stage: Roberto Carlos, Tom Jobim, Caetano Veloso, Bob Dylan, Tina Turner and even the Beastie Boys. In 1995, the Imperator was closed again though as a venue for concerts, only to hold an arts and crafts fair.
The re-opening of the Imperator is of great symbolic significance for the people of Méier, satisfying the need for a cultural venue of this kind in the neighborhood.
“All we have around here in terms of a movie theater is the cinema complex at Norte Shopping in Cachambi,” says a Méier-resident. “Apart from the blockbuster movies there’s not much else we can see.”
The new center can put this part of the city on the cultural map again. There are many local theater and dance groups for instance who – thus far – have difficulties finding a space where they can rehearse and perform.
“Rio has a huge amount of theaters and concert halls, but they are all concentrated in the Zona Sul and Centro.” says independent theater director Fabiano de Freitas.
De Freitas leads a youth theater group from Vila Cruzeiro in the Zona Norte. “Residents of the Zona Norte also need easy access to a quality theater, without having to travel to the other side of town, with good facilities in terms of light and sound,” he adds.
The new center is very well located in an area with good parking facilities. The Centro Cultural João Nogueira is planned to open January 20th, 2012, located at Rua Dias da Cruz 170, Méier.