Manila Metropolitan Theater – Manila, Philippines - Atlas Obscura

Manila Metropolitan Theater

This historic Art Deco building embellished with local tropical fruits had fallen into disrepair before a recent restoration. 


When the Manila Metropolitan Theater (abbreviated as MET) was formally opened on December 10, 1931, it was considered the country’s first national theater. In 1973, it was inscribed as a National Historic Landmark. The National Museum of the Philippines declared it a National Culture Treasure in 2010 because it’s a unique, well-preserved Art Deco building of an outstanding size in Asia.

It hasn’t been always been in the limelight since its opening. Before it re-acquired its stature as the “Grand Dame of Manila,” the building has suffered. The MET was damaged during the 1945 Battle of Manila and was used for various purposes in the following years—as a boxing gym, a seedy motel, a gay bar, a basketball court, a garage, and a warehouse. It was restored under the auspices of Imelda Marcos in 1978 and then shuttered again in 1996 due to conflicts of ownership between the City of Manila and the government insurance company that sponsored its restoration. 

A government arm, the National Commission for Culture and the Arts (NCCA) bought the theater from the the government insurance company in 2015 and started restoration work in February 2017. After its most extensive public restoration efforts, the MET reopened on December 10, 2021—90 years after its inauguration

The building was designed by a Filipino architect Juan M. Arrelano, who had to undertake additional studies in the United States to learn theater design, as he had previously specialized in Neoclassical buildings. His earlier works include the nearby National Museum of Fine Arts, Manila Post Office, and Jones Bridge.

The MET is known for its Art Deco design, but Arrelano made sure that Filipino decorative elements were incorporated throughout the building: batik patterns of the southern Mindanaon regions, capiz lamps, and banana leaf pillars. It gets better when you look up at the ceiling of the main theater, which is embellished with mangoes, bananas, and tropical leaves.

Know Before You Go

The theater has monthly free film screenings and programs published on the official Facebook page, which will allow attendees/ticket holders to explore the interiors on their own.

In partnership with KAYAK

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