The Haifa City Museum is located in the Haifa’s German Colony, at the foot of the famous Baha’i Gardens. Celebrating Haifa’s rich cinematic past, the museum was created within an old Templar Community House originally built in 1869 and recently restored in 2000. Within the museum’s old walls visitors can be taken back to the the age of the silver screen and the years that followed. The Haifa City Museum can be enjoyed by anyone, from film buffs to wide-eyed toddlers with no understanding of the cinematic legends such as Clark Gable, Alfred Hitchcock and Marilyn Monroe.
Haifa City Museum
With full blueprints of Haifa’s historical movie-houses, letters on official movie-house letterheads and even opening night invitations in “The Palaces of Haifa” exhibition, you too can be transported back to the time where glamour and fame cycled around the movie industry. A special curtained-off area of the museum’s first floor holds a screen and projector where you can sit and watch old film trailers and old Israeli pre-movie advertisements. Also on display are old film reels and a photo collection donated by a local resident featuring Hollywood’s stars of yesteryear such as Gregory Peck, James Stewart and Marlene Dietrich. Largely featured in the Armon Theatre which was established in the Haifa’s Downtown area, not far from the German Colony, in the year 1935. The original theatre had 1800 seats and an electric removable roof for pleasant summer evenings. On opening night, the Armon Theatre showed “The Merry Widow”, an Oscar-winning musical comedy. The theatre met its demise with its closing in the late 80s and was eventually torn down.
Walk on upstairs and see individualised displays with historical letters and tickets to performances. Learn how the Hadar Theatre employed Holocaust survivors as ushers and how the Ein Dor Theatre, the first movie-house to sell refreshments, featured “Uday Shan-kar and his excellent company of Indian dancers and musicians” in 1936. Step even further back in time to the Coliseum Theatre, the first movie-house in Haifa, which was built in the silent-film era. And then the later years of Haifa’s numerous movie-houses, where pictures of legendary directors Alfred Hitchcock and Sidney Lumet are shown during their stays in Haifa.
Due to the large British presence in the days before the establishment of Israel as a country, Haifa eagerly built movie-houses to service the British soldiers, the local Arab workers and the relatively poor Jewish immigrants. In the 1960s Haifa had the largest concentration of theatres in the world with over 25 movie-houses, several of them featuring numerous screens, in Haifa alone.
NB: There is an exhibition in the Haifa City Museum dedicated to the pornographic theatres of Haifa which might not be suitable for kids.
11 Ben Gurion Avenue, Haifa
By: Shem Tov Sasson. A Contributing Journalist for Tourist Israel, Shem Tov lives in the small Israeli city of Ma’alot. His personal blog about his experiences and adventures in the Holy Land can be found at Israel’s Good Name.