Cinema Impero in Liberation Avenue is probably the most striking of Asmara’s four Art Deco cinemas. It was designed by Mario Messina and built in 1937.
Forty-five round lights decorate the front with the name Cinema Impero spelt out vertically in illuminated letters. It certainly is a landmark building, especially at night. Several pairs of doors lead into the cinema. Each door an impressive large semi-circular handle forming a full circle with its partner when both are closed.
I blagged my way in to check out the auditorium and was not disappointed. Initially I was a bit freaked out standing in the pitch black empty space but it was all worth it when the lights came on. The back wall had stylized Art Deco reliefs of impala, while along the side walls there were more reliefs of dancing figures and palm trees. A cordon of squat poles with lion’s heads on top creates symbolic separation of the seats from the movie screen.
People started coming in for the next session so I returned to the foyer and left offering sincere thanks to the guys sitting beside the doors.
In my opinion, Cinema Impero is one of the great cinemas of the world.
Asmara: Africa's Secret Modernist City~ Edward Denison, Guang Yu Ren & Naigzy Gebremedhim