Most of us have graced the escalators of The Embassy in Valletta at least once, whether it be on a city shopping spree or to catch the latest film at the mall's upstairs cinema. But did you know that The Embassy on St Lucia Street has a rich history dating back 150 years? Well, you better believe it!
Currently under construction for a massive revamp, The Embassy only became a shopping mall in the year 2000, but its days as a movie theatre go way back! Luckily, there are some fabulous black and white photos to prove it! We can just imagine how exciting it would have been queuing up for tickets to iconic blockbusters such as JAWS which came out in 1975 to a massive response.
Photo courtesy of P. Lindsay
Even further down along the timeline, The Embassy was not just one but two incredibly fancy hotels! All the way back in the beginning of the 19th Century, an elegant hotel - The Mediterranean Hotel - sat on the prominent site. Mr Gioacchino Ellul took over the hotel in 1858 and renamed it The Imperial Hotel. The hotel was described as a "splendid and renowned establishment offering comfortable large and small apartments, restaurant, as well as warm, cold and shower baths".
The Imperial Hotel welcomed various prominent personalities of the time and lived an illustrious life for the rest of the 19th Century. The Imperial was renamed 'St James Hotel' by Mr Raphael Gabarretta in the early years of the 20th Century. During the peak of World War II, the hotel suffered the effects of bombing attacks, along with many other historic buildings including the Royal Opera House in 1942, a year after the St James Hotel was hit.
The fate of the St Lucy Street site took a turn for the better in the 1950's when it was rebuilt after the War as a The Embassy Cinema instead of the demolished St James Hotel. It was inaugurated on July 1st, 1954 and was an instant hit! The first ever film to be showed was 'Flight of the White Heron' and was attended by the Archbishop of Malta, H.E The Governor and Lady Creasy, the Prime Minister of Malta George Borg Olivier and Mrs Borg Olivier.
The site was eventually modified and three more cinemas were added. Several major films were screened at The Embassy, making it a major attraction in the heart of Valletta. In December 2000, the four cinemas were replaced by the Embassy Shopping Complex and Cinemas that we know and love, including big high street favourites like Bershka and Costa Coffee, and well know local chains including Agenda Bookshop.
The site is currently undergoing major renovations, and will also include a hotel- partly bringing the landmark back to its former use! So next time you happen to find yourself in the Capital's largest shopping mall, make sure to remember the rich history of the site, of all those years of luxury five-star stays and popcorn queues before your ancestors caught the latest black and white flicks!