The 200-seater single screen venue in the Jimbocho district opened in 1968 as a general cultural facility and became a movie theater in 1974.
The conversion to cinema was led by general manager Takano Etsuko and Kawakita Kashiko, one of the most important women in the history of Japanese cinema, who headed a management operation which called itself the “Equipe du Cinema” (French for cinema team). The name has since been adopted by Iwanami Hall’s customer loyalty program.
Kawakita, whose legacy continues to be honored at the Kawakita Memorial Film Institute, was a co-founder of film distributor Towa (later Toho-Towa). She was a pioneering film executive in the 1930s who got a taste for foreign cinema during several years living in Berlin and Peking (now Beijing). She sat on the Cannes festival competition jury in 1963, became a pioneering distributor and took on a quasi-diplomatic role.
Iwanami Hall is renown for importing and screening award-winning foreign-language titles, hard to find Japanese films, and for helping to kick off a boom in single-screen and mini theaters in the Japanese capital.
Among the Equipe’s first selections for Iwanami Hall were Satyajit Ray’s Apu Trilogy (“Pather Panchali,” “Aparajito” and “The World of Apu”). So far we have screened 271 masterpieces from 65 countries,” its website proclaims. It is currently screening biographical documentary “A Jewish Life.”
On Tuesday, the website also announced the venue’s impending finale. “Iwanami Hall has judged that it has become too difficult to continue operating the theater as the new coronavirus infection has impacted and drastically worsened our financial situation,” it said. “We would like to express our sincere gratitude to all the movie fans and related parties for their patronage and support for 54 years.”