A beloved Valletta cinema infamous for showing pornography back in the day that happens to be currently experiencing a renaissance among younger cinemaphiles is set to become a boutique hotel after its owner filed an application to convert it.
It is believed that the Planning Authority will approve the transformation of City Lights into a guesthouse today, the Times of Malta reported. As the last remaining classic cinema in the capital city – others at the Savoy, Embassy and Colisuem have all since shut down – many people were gutted to hear that the end for the City Lights was sooner than expected.
“We’re losing all sense of culture and community whilst the official rhetoric tells us that these are a priority. Shame,” said one person.
“It needs restoration yes, but why not leave it as a cinema? I go there often, especially the cinema downstairs, it has amazing features and old stuff which was used back in the days for the cinema itself and I hope these items will not be thrown away!” said another.
City Lights is inside a 300-year-old building that is scheduled as a Grade 1 national monument, the highest level of protection afforded in Malta
Officially designated as a “religious townhouse”, it was expected that the application to convert the cinema would be refused – the Superintendence for Cultural Heritage even said the proposal would extensively impact the building’s fabric.
The new plans would see the cinema turn into a boutique hotel with a rooftop pool and 11 suites. The first floor cinema along with its lobby will be destroyed, but the newer cinema bar will be kept under the plans. The building’s facade will be refurbished and not changed apart from the removal of any modern additions.
The application is being done by the current owners, who are part of the family who have owned the cinema since it opened.
The cinema opened in 1977 as the St John’s Street cinema in the balcony area of the 1930s Capitol Cinema, quickly earning a reputation for showing adult films as well as using original 1930s Kalee 35mm projectors.
In 2009, it was regularly raided by Maltese police who attempted to bring charges under pornography laws that have since been repealed.
City Lights had recently undergone a new lease of life as an art gallery, popular alternative cinema bar, as well as host venue for film festivals and other young events.