This study aims to look at the history open air cinemas in Istanbul and how they formed democratic spaces for different social classes in Turkey. Open-air cinemas were located at small neighborhoods and addressed middle and lower classes who do not have access to major movie theaters at the city centers. With no hierarchical settings, low ticket prices, cheap or free facilities of toilet, food and drinks, they were democratic urban spaces where all social classes could experience watching a film in a peaceful collective environment. These cinemas linked cinema-goers with the city and helped them make sense of the rhythm of urban life. Open air cinema was the only and cheapest entertainment of the period that attracted audience from all ages, different ethnic backgrounds and social classes. As a result of a rapid and uncoordinated economic boom in early 50s, mass urban renovation projects transformed public spaces into private housing estates. The destruction of open-air neighborhood cinemas and the emergence of multiplexes in city centers resulted in the social exclusion of certain social classes. This study explores the relation between the transformation of open-air cinemas and the urban gentrification projects that took place in Istanbul between 1950 and 1970. It suggests that cinema-going both shaped and is shaped by the urban gentrification in Istanbul.
Sezen Kayhan, Koç University, Turkey