Cinema in Taiz, facing oblivion [Archives:2003/657/Culture]

August 7 2003

By Farouq Muqbil
For the Yemen Times, Taiz

Just as it is the case all over Yemen the condition of movies halls or cinemas in Yemen is quite miserable. Even though it's been 40 years since the first public cinemas in Yemen appeared, today imported movies films are shown in pathetic movie houses using the most outdated technologies. The first time a movie was screened in Taiz was in 1963 in a cinema house that is more like a store and since then 5 movie houses were established; Bilqees, 23rd July Hall, Saba, Al-Muntazah and Al-Jahmaliya. Out of those 3 have been closed down and only two; Saba and 23rd July are struggling to stay alive. The question here is why the situation of Cinema in Taiz is so bad?

No cinema without production
Since there is no real movies production in Yemen in general the general establishment for cinema and theater was established but unfortunately in vain because until today not a single production has been made. And so Yemen keeps depending on imported western movies which clash strongly with the Yemeni culture which is greatly considered one of the obstacles against cinema industry in Yemen.

History of Yemeni cinema
Unfortunately there is no adequate information at all about Yemeni movie production or any recorded or documented database. The little information comes as word of mouth that the first movie show machines were that of Imam Ahmed possessions which are stored in the National Museum in Taiz.
Journalist photographer Adil Al-Ariqi said that the first cinema in Taiz was that immediately after the revolution and was named Cinema Al-Ghanami because it was screened at Al-Ghanami courtyard an event that lasted for a short while to be replaced by Cinema Bilqees. Hence onwards several movie halls appeared and disappeared yet most were run by the government. A time came when the demand on cinemas was quite heavy as Mr. Aboud Mohammed Omar owner of 23rd July movie hall says. “There used to be a large crowed and the hall used to have more than 450 attendees and in the balcony more than 220.” He commented.
Mr. Razi Abdulaziz Al-Yousifi Culture Bureau Officer in Taiz exclaimed that it is strange how the appeal to movie halls has deteriorated since the eighties when there used to be large halls and even sections for women. But today in spite of the globalization and modern technologies people have stopped going to movie halls and women refrained totally.

Is it The End?
Yes, according to cinema owners in Taiz they expect that sooner or later the movie halls in Taiz will become extinct especially with the various problems they face such as outdated technologies and high taxation. Aboud Mohammed Omar owner of 23rd July Hall said that he'd be searching for a new project soon. And Mr. Ramzi Al-Yousifi Culture Bureau officer in Taiz explained that the reason behind closure of 3 halls was that: “they couldn't live up to the expectations of the audience as well as they were pressurized by the laws and legislations controlling this industry. Then lately the dish and digital satellites phenomenon overcame the shortcomings and so people opted for seeing movies at home. Not only that, the statuses of the halls is pathetic as they are filthy and uncomfortable, so people would rather stay at home or go to internet cafes as a substitute”
Al-Yousifi, however, confirmed that the culture bureau in Taiz will do all that it can to revive cinema in Taiz.
The situation is bad and if nothing is done cinema in Taiz will be history in no time. Although it is one of the mass media but it is ignored in our country due to laws and culture. There is no manufacturing and there is no audience, so is there hope?