The Balboa Theater


A place that was also a water hole for those who lived at Balboa, was the Balboa Theater next to the Balboa Clubhouse. The place was modern, good looking and had the latest technology in movie projection.

It was the best movie house on the Isthmus. In fact, many Balboa inhabitants thought it was the best theater in the whole world with a balcony and super-Hi-Fi almost stereo surround-sound.  If you want to take a peek inside the theater, please click here and enjoy the view. The theater followed the Art Deco architecture style.

Art Deco burst onto the world stage at the 1925 Paris Exposition Internationale, and quickly swept across the globe. Its influence was everywhere: it transformed the skylines of the cities of New York to Shanghai and shaped the design of everything from fashionable evening wear to plastic radios.

Its charm swept across all areas of art and design, including decorative arts,architecture, fashion, art, graphics and film. The new aesthetics were also found in industrial design, furniture, transport, communications and in household items. Above all, it became the style of the pleasure palaces of the age—hotels, cocktails bars, nightclubs and cinemas.

Currently the Balboa Theater is under the administration of Panama Government, Instituto Nacional de Cultura (National Institute of Culture).  It’s the venue of two very popular talent contests for young kids and young adults.  The first one is called, “Canta Conmigo” (Sing With Me) and the second, “Vive La Música” (Live the Music).  These talent contests follow the pattern of “American Idol” in the United States and “Britain’s Gots Talent” in the U.K.  The latter catapulted opera singer Paul Potts to stardom.

I was there on Sunday, March 22, 2009 and took the following photographs for your enjoyment and remembrance.  Here we go.

Photograph of Balboa Theater located at Balboa, Panama City, Panama.  (Credit:  Omar Upegui R.)
Photograph of Balboa Theater located at Balboa, Panama City, Panama. (Credit: Omar Upegui R.)
A closer view of the Balboa Theater.  The poster at the right promotes the Canta Conmigo contest held every Wednesday evening.  The hill on the background is Sosa Hill.  (Credit:  Omar Upegui R.)
A closer view of the Balboa Theater. The poster at the right promotes the "Canta Conmigo" contest held every Wednesday evening. The hill on the background is Sosa Hill. (Credit: Omar Upegui R.)
A close up view of the upper structure of the building where you can appreciate the Art Deco architecture style.  (Credit:  Omar Upegui R.)
A close up view of the upper structure of the building where you can appreciate the Art Deco architecture style. (Credit: Omar Upegui R.)
Photograph of the attractive marquee of the Balboa Theater which follows the Art Deco architecture style popular in the twenties.  (Credit:  Omar Upegui R.)
Photograph of the attractive marquee of the Balboa Theater which follows the Art Deco architecture style popular during the twenties and thirties. (Credit: Omar Upegui R.)

This is one of the best kept buildings of the former Canal Zone.  The program to promote the talent of our young generation is very stimulating.  Good Day.

11 thoughts on “The Balboa Theater”

  1. When watching the talent contest Canta Conmigo last night, I was telling my sister about your photographic endeavor about the former CZ. It is very nice that the Balboa Theater is taken care of and used for these activities though I highly disagree with the business issue behind. On the other hand, many of the participants come from a low social stratum, and now have the doors open for a bright future, provided they get the promised support from their sponsors.

  2. Hi AS:

    It’s difficult to get greedy out of almost any human activity, and that applies to “Canta Conmigo” as well.

    However, as you said, these are children of very low social extraction. Being in a contest like this will change their lives forever.

    The winner got $5,000 plus a Yari Toyota, plus a lot of other gifts like a laptop-printer and so forth. It is much more that she or her parents would ever imagine possible.

    Thanks for expression your comments. I really appreciate it AS.

    Take care,

    Omar.-

  3. Oh the many nights spent at the Balboa Theatre! It was pretty much the only entertainment available growing up. I fondly remember the “owl shows” – late night scary movies. And the High School choir concerts twice a year I performed in – quite the social events!

  4. hola Omar
    Una pregunta usted pudo vivir grandes experiencias cuando el teatro balboa le pertenecia a la Zona del Canal?
    lo unico q ahora yo he ido y he podido apreciar nada mas son los concursas como canta conmigo y vive la musica y ahora muevelo q son concursos de busqueda de talentos
    y no se q diferencias tenga cuando era en dominio de la zona del canal y ahora.
    y usted a sido uno de los q vivio en la zona?
    gracias.
    Toby

    1. Hola Toby:

      En realidad no. Yo trabajaba en la entonces Zona del Canal, pero no tenía acceso al Teatro Balboa. Éste era para el uso exclusivo de los trabajadores de la Comisión del Canal de Panamá y sus familares.

      Cuando el Teatro Balboa funcionaba bajo la Administración del Canal de Panamá, éste era utilizado para proyectar películas para el entretenimiento de los empleados del la Comisión del Canal de Panamá. Ahora que es administrado por el Instituto Nacional de Cultura (INAC), es utilizado para los eventos que usted menciona y otros eventos similares.

      Saludos,

      Omar.-

  5. Por que esta tan descuidada la fchada del teatro Balboa, sus paredes lucen sucias y se nota que hace mucho tiempo no hacen mantenimiento?

    Por que no pensar en cambiar la fachada por una de libre mantenimiento, por ejemplo forrar sus paredes con alguna piedra: piedra coralina, marmol, travertinos, etc. esto realzaria nuevamente su hermosura.

  6. Dear Omar,
    I realize this is an old post, but do you have any contact information for the Teatro Balboa? I am looking for some information on its history for a centennial film on the Panama Canal. If you could recommend a historian who might know something about the theater, it would be appreciated.
    Thank you for your consideration.
    Darroch Greer

    1. Hello Mr. Greer:

      I’m sorry, but I’m afraid I don’t have much information about Teatro Balboa. I suggest you contact the Panama Institute of Culture (INAC) which is the public entity managing the theater.

      I’m sure they will assist you out with your inquiry. If you speak Spanish, seeking for your information will be a lot easier.

      Thank you for visiting my blog.

      Omar.-

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s