Lights, camera, action
Did you know that Ultonia was once the most popular cinema in Girona?
If we were to ask some of the residents of Girona who lived through their youth during the 20th century, they would fondly remember the long queues that used to form in front of its doors… There were days when they extended all the way to the Post Office building, which was about 200 meters away!
Indeed, in Girona, cinema also arrived as a highly successful source of entertainment, with a spectacular reception from the population. In fact, numerous screening rooms were inaugurated in the capital of the province. Some were even reserved for the private use of employees from certain factories.
An appealing business for a fresh start
Joan Agustí inaugurated the Cinema Teatre Ultonia on October 29, 1945, coinciding with Sant Narcís, the major festival of the city of Girona. But these weren’t the first cinemas. Previously, the family had opened the first screening room in Olot, the capital of Garrotxa, about 60 km from the capital. This screening room was a pilot test and was named Núria, in homage to the Vall de Núria, where the founder had spent his wedding night.
In view of the cinema’s success, they made use of the land they had recently acquired on Gran Via Jaume I in Girona. Exactly, at the current location of the hotel! For its construction, they enlisted the architect Ignasi Bosch Reig, who designed a large and luxurious pear-shaped room to enhance the acoustics of the films to be projected. In fact, Cinema Ultonia was one of the main cinemas in Girona, alongside the Albéniz, and stood out for its significant seating capacity: a total of 1,400 seats distributed across three levels (orchestra, amphitheater, and gallery).
Interestingly, the cinema premiered with the film “Royal Canadian Mounted Police,” the famous police film starring Gary Cooper. It’s worth recalling that during that time, censorship still played a fairly significant role, which cinemas had to navigate film by film and not without difficulties. The venue enjoyed great success until the late 20th century. However, like many other cinemas, it began to lose relevance with the advent of contemporary multiplexes.
Memories of unforgettable movie afternoons
From cinema to Gran Hotel Ultonia
Finally, in 2003, the cinema was demolished to make way for the hotel’s expansion. The luxurious spirit of the cinema carried over to the new building, giving rise to one of the first four-star hotels in Girona.
Even though the bustling cinema entrance was transformed into a hotel, observant visitors, before entering the hotel, can still see a small ticket booth on the left side of the door. This is where viewers used to purchase their tickets in the past.
And did the adventure with the founding family end here? Not at all! The screening rooms adapted to the new preferences of viewers, the multiplexes, to offer a comprehensive entertainment service in various locations. In fact, if you visit Catalonia or live there, you might be familiar with the Ocine theaters, the chain that originated from Cinema Ultonia and currently boasts over 19 theaters spread across Spain and France.