Curtain falls on Ikebukuro’s Bungei-za

A postwar landmark in Tokyo will disappear Mar. 6 when the Bungei-za theater in Ikebukuro, which has featured classical films since 1955, closes its doors.

Theater owner Daishiro Miura, 69, cited the building’s age, but industry observers said slow business at Bungei-za and other art-house cinemas in recent years has been attributed to the prevalence of rental video and satellite television programs. Bungei-za saw its heyday in the late 1960s and early 1970s when young customers flocked to the theater to see late-night shows. Its popularity also stemmed from the fact that it sometimes featured movies within months after they were screened in first-run theaters, showing them at low prices.

Miura said he will close the theater “for a while,” but said he is not sure whether he can reopen it in the future. In the past two months, Bungei-za has featured its selection of Japan’s best postwar films. It will show Akira Kurosawa’s “Ichiban Utsukushiku” (The Best Beauty) of 1944 and Kimio Naruse’s “Utaandon” of 1943 to end its 42-year history.