El Ateneo Grand Splendid

El Ateneo Grand Splendid is one of the best known bookshops in Buenos Aires, Argentina.

Situated at 1860 Santa Fe Avenue in Barrio Norte, the building was opened as a theatre called Teatro Gran Splendid in May 1919. Designed by the architects Peró and Torres Armengol for the empresario Max Glücksmann (1875-1946).The building features ceiling frescoes painted by the Italian artist Nazareno Orlandi and caryatids sculpted by Troiano Troiani, whose work also graces the cornice along the Palacio de la Legislatura de la Ciudad de Buenos Aires.

The ornate former theatre was leased by Grupo Ilhsa in February 2000. The building was subsequently renovated and converted into a book and music shop under the direction of the architect Fernando Manzone; the cinema seating was removed and in its place book shelves were installed. Following refurbishment works, the 2,000 m² (21,000 ft²) El Ateneo Grand Splendid became the group’s flagship store, and in 2007 sold over 700,000 books; over a million people walk through its doors annually.

Chairs are provided throughout the building, including the still-intact theatre boxes, where customers can dip into books before purchase, and there is a café on the back of what was once the stage. The ceiling, the ornate carvings, the crimson stage curtains, the auditorium lighting and many architectural details remain. Despite the changes, the building still retains the feeling of the grand theatre it once was.

The El Ateneo Grand Splendid theatre had a seating capacity of 1,050, and staged a variety of performances by tango artists Carlos Gardel, Francisco Canaro, Roberto Firpo and Ignacio Corsini. Glücksmann started his own radio station in 1924 (Radio Splendid), which broadcast from the building where his recording company, Nacional Odeón, made some of the early recordings of the great tango singers of the day. In the late twenties the theatre was converted into a cinema, and in 1929 showed the first sound films presented in Argentina.