"Korea cinema was born right here at this theater in 1919,… with the premier of the country's first movie 'Fight for Justice'. Now, 100 years later, no movies are screened here anymore. Instead, the cinema has become a museum dedicated to the history of the film industry."
Dansungsa, located at the intersection of Jongno 3-ga in downtown Seoul, is welcoming visitors,… only this time, it's for the purpose of introducing the history of South Korea's film industry.
When it opened as South Korea's first motion picture house in 1907, Dansungsa was the country's hottest cinema.
But over the last century, the cinema has faced crisis after crisis, the biggest in the late 1990s amid the opening of big multiplexes by South Korea's entertainment giants.
It tried to reopen as a multiplex in 2005,… but couldn't stay afloat.
The place was closed for years, but a museum was built to educate people about how the South Korean film industry's 100-year-old journey.
Legendary director Im Kwon-taek, remembers the days he spent at Dansungsa.
"When the movie, Seopyeonje, premiered here and got big, I was always on the second-floor of this historic building to watch the crowds coming in. At that time, I sometimes wondered how stupid I was. But know I think of it, it was one of the biggest gifts of my career."
The museum, which is located below ground level, has more than 5-thousand pieces that represent the history of the South Korean film industry,… including original posters, scripts, and filming equipment.
It has a memorial zone for directors, actors and actresses, and people can also see an original photograph of the newly constructed theater in 1934,… after it was burned down during Japan's colonial rule of the peninsula.
To preserve history,… it has left one theater inside for visitors to watch classic films for free on special occasions.
The Dansungsa Cinema History Hall will focus on educating those interested in films,… and for that purpose, the organizers plan to host free group viewings for students once every week.
Won Jung-hwan, Arirang News.