Bat Yam Activists Organize to Save Savion Cinema

A group of Bat Yam residents and representatives of the Society for Preservation of Israel Heritage Sites jointly submitted their objection to the planned demolition of the Savion Cinema, located on Haatzmaut Boulevard, to make way for the construction of a luxury residential and commercial high-rise.

The plans for the building, designed by architect Ilan Pivko, are being promoted by a private developer with the encouragement of the municipality, which is hoping to reinvigorate the area.

The Savion was built in 1957 and is the last surviving remnant of Bat Yam's rich cinema culture. It became a local landmark thanks to its front facade made of interwoven blocks of industrial concrete that give it an airy and elegant look.

The auditorium was razed in the 1990s to make way for a parking lot and the cinema's lobby now houses a dollar store.

Opponents of the new plan, including residents new and old, neighboring artists and students, argue that the decision to raze the Savion is a mistake. They say the site warrants "physical and social" preservation and should be made available somehow for the benefit of the neighborhood.

"The Savion is a cultural and architectural gem, a landmark of the local skyline and history, and therefore construction of a tower there should be done proportionally," said one opponent.

"Residents of Jaffa neighborhoods, Amidar and northwest Bat Yam today do not have an accessible public theater within walking distance," said Nisan Almog, a local activist and one of the petitioners. "Building the tower could be an opportunity to turn Savion into a film house or a new downtown community media center."

The Society for Preservation of Israel Heritage Sites, which joined the petition, said the demolition plan for the Savion was made without a hearing in the municipal preservation committee and without any file documenting the plans being prepared for it.

"We realize the importance of city's development needs but believe that it is possible to do so while also ensuring proper integration of elements of the past; like other cities in Israel and around the world, it is important for the city to preserve the various layers that tell its story," the group said. "We call on the distinguished committee to listen to the public's cry and refrain from approving and promoting the proposed plan until there is a thorough review of the potential inherent in the site."