Artist Matt Lambros on the Stark Appeal of Abandoned Movie Theaters

Into the strangely beautiful world of America's lost cinemas.

Back in 2011, we featured the work of photographer Matt Lambros, who was at the time engaged in a project around documenting the stark and often strangely beautiful interiors of abandoned hospitals. Five years later, Lambros has turned his eye to abandoned theaters, with similarly striking results, and his work is collected in a new book entitled After the Final Curtain: The Fall of the American Movie Theater. (The book is out on Tuesday November 15, and is available to order on Amazon and Barnes & Noble.) Lambros has been kind enough to provide us with a gallery of work from the book; we also spoke to him about his work, the appeal of abandoned buildings, and what forgotten places he might explore next.


Flavorwire: What is it that draws you to abandoned buildings as a subject for your photography?

Matt Lambros: I think curiosity of the unknown is the main thing that draws me to abandoned buildings. What did this place use to be? Why was it left behind? What’s left inside? Each place I’ve photographed used to be someone’s home, place of worship, business, etc. but at some point everyone closed the doors and walked away. Photographing these spaces and discovering their history helps to answer those questions.

We ran a selection of images from your abandoned hospitals series a few years back. The mood in those images is clearly very different to the mood here; how did you arrive upon theaters as your next choice of subject matter?

I started photographing abandoned buildings in the early 2000s, and focused primarily on American Asylums. Each asylum complex was designed to be self sufficient with their own power plants, farms, churches, housing for employees, and even theaters. The theaters were always my favorite part of the abandoned hospitals, so it made sense for me to start documenting forgotten theaters. Since they were places where people went to have fun I try to convey that in my photographs.

On your website, you mention your “involvement with various organizations that work to restore and reopen abandoned theaters in the United States.” Could you talk a little about these organizations, and how you go about working with them?

Some of the theaters I photograph have groups actively working to restore them, such as the Friends of the Historic Variety Theatre in Cleveland, OH or the Friends of the Boyd in Philadelphia, PA. I try to work with these organizations however I can. Over the years I’ve donated my time, photographs, and held photography workshops to benefit these groups.

America is a relatively young country; do you have any interest in working in, say, Europe, where there are much older abandoned sites you could investigate? Or is there something about American abandoned buildings, in particular, that interests you?

I’d love to photograph abandoned buildings in Europe, and I’ll be speaking in London next year so hopefully I’ll get a chance then.

Do you have any idea what your next project might be?

I have a few ideas for my next project. It will probably involve historic buildings that have been turned into something else (like theaters that have been repurposed into churches), but that’s a few years away. I still have a lot of theaters to photograph.

Click through to check out a selection of the images from After the Final Curtain, including some Flavorwire exclusives.