Cuba closes multimedia venues

The movie and video businesses have been operating in a legal gray area, often under licenses for independent r...

The movie and video businesses have been operating in a legal gray area, often under licenses for independent restaurants, offering food and refreshments even though the entertainment is the main draw. They are not mentioned on a list of nearly 200 types of independent enterprise authorized under limited economic changes begun by President Ra__l Castro, but until now they were not explicitly prohibited, either.

An announcement published on Saturday in Granma, the Communist Party newspaper, said the show was over.

_Cinematic exhibition (including 3D rooms) and computer games will cease immediately in whatever kind of private business activity,_ said the announcement by the executive committee of the Council of Ministers, Cuba_s highest-ranking government body.

Many private cinema operators spent thousands of dollars to start their businesses, which range from modest to flashy and offer the latest Hollywood blockbusters and fast-paced video games.

_Economically, this really hurts us,_ said Orlando Su__rez, who owns the San Rafael 3D cinema in central Havana, which he described as _a relief_ for his family. _We don_t understand why they didn_t give us a window of time instead of taking this stance of _close down now._ _

Private theaters have become increasingly popular as an alternative to poorly maintained state-run cinemas, which tend to show more staid, highbrow fare. Moviegoers were also dismayed by the news.

_It_s a lack of respect,_ said Lionny Gonz__lez, 15, a high school student. _Now, the only thing left for us is to go to a disco. There_s nothing else._

Rafael Gonz__lez, 53, a father of five, agreed. _Young people need these salons,_ he said. _They spend time there instead of being on the streets._

The Communist Party youth newspaper, Juventud Rebelde, recently published an article quoting Fernando Rojas, vice minister of culture, as saying the video parlors promote _frivolity, mediocrity, pseudoculture and banality,_ raising fears of a crackdown.


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