The putting up of the property for sale raises the prospect of the cinema’s imminent closure, a development that marks the end of an era.
A notice, dated January 25, was published in the Gazette on March 8, noting that Globe Theatres Ltd was struck off the Register of Companies on January 23.
Sources close to the owners say they hope to fetch about $25 million for the property, located in what is regarded as a prime business area of the capital. It is reported that there are already a number of buyers in mind, but one option that is being explored is having the property purchased by the State.
Owner of the cinema, Tony Sirju, contacted by Newsday yesterday, confirmed that the cinema is up for sale. However he said, “I don’t want to make any comment on that right now.” Globe is the last of the big single-screen cinemas in Port-of-Spain. This month marks exactly 80 years since it first opened its doors at the corner of St Vincent and Park Streets on March 19, 1933. The cinema’s long history saw it mark many milestones.
Globe was reportedly the first building in Trinidad to be air-conditioned, and at one stage was described as the largest cinema in the Caribbean. It also had a stage for live theatrical performances. Famously, it was at the centre of a scheme which saw a concert promoter, Valmont Jones, escape the country with heavily-lined pockets after he claimed to be putting on a concert at Globe featuring Sam Cooke, the famous American soul singer known for “Twisting the Night Away” and “Wonderful World”. In a sense, the history of Globe is almost as colourful as the man who first opened its doors back in 1933. The cinema was opened by the Kashmir-born orphan Haji Gokool Meah, known simply as Gokool.
Gokool was a true entrepreneur who started off in the cane-cart business and then was a shopkeeper. By 1892, Gokool was able to purchase Diamond, Greenhill and River Estates, comprising almost the whole Diego Martin valley, which he developed as cocoa plantations.
By 1918, Gokool took advantage of recession prices in the wake of World War I and brought several properties in Port-of-Spain. This turned out to be a masterstroke in the long-run.
In 1922, he made a pilgrimage to Mecca with his son, Noor, and became known as Haji Gokool Meah. In 1927, he built a masjid in St James which stands to this day.
Gokool invested in the cinema business, where others such as Timothy Roodal and Sarran Teelucksingh had already made a fortune. Always thinking big, Gokool forged an alliance with the American film producer, Metro Goldwyn Mayer (MGM). In this arrangement, Gokool could only show films produced by that studio, not a bad deal considering that the MGM titles of that year included Dancing Lady, Bombshell and Today We Live, starring Joan Crawford.
In 1933, Gokool opened the cinema at the corner of St Vincent and Park Streets – called Green Corner – and called it the Metro Cinema. The ornate faux classical-style building, with its plush red-carpeted walls, could seat over 1,000 people in balcony and pit, and cost over $80,000 to construct. (By comparison, in those days you could buy the whole of Aranguez for $22,000.) The cinema was as big a hit as its films.
However, by 1938, Gokool breached his contract with MGM by showing films from rival outfits like RKO and Paramount. MGM withdrew and signed with another cinema pioneer. Undeterred, Gokool simply rebranded. He changed the name of his cinema to Globe. He also opened other Globe cinemas in Princes Town and Chaguanas. Gokool died in 1940, aged 92, leaving behind the cinema he founded. Up until the 1990s it remained popular, but nowhere to the extent of its earlier days.
With the advent of television and greater competition from the rise of the multi-plex, audiences have dwindled. The cinema recently underwent refurbishment under its current owners, but this has not appeared to restore audiences.
However, the cinema still boasts of being “the only place for a true movie experience — a new super double!” Currently on show is Burt Wonderstone, starring Jim Carrey and the animated film The Croods.
All the other single-screen cinemas in Port-of-Spain have come and gone, being converted into venues ranging from churches to nightclubs, including Strand, Astor and Deluxe. Kaydonna, one of two drive-ins on the outskirts of the city, has been closed under a seemingly perpetual renovation. The first cinema, the London Electric Theatre, opened in this country on February 11, 1911, in Woodbrook.
“It is very sad to learn of the demise of the Globe, one of Trinidad’s grand old cinemas,” said Bruce Paddington, coordinator of the University of the West Indies film programme and director of the TT Film Festival. “It is ironic that its demise has come at a time when the local film industry is beginning to produce more and more films while we still don’t have a cinema that is willing to show local films all the year round.”