Cairo's cinema Karim: An active player in this year's Panorama of the European Film

Nahed Nasr, Monday 30 Nov 2015

The 8th Panorama includes over 50 screenings in Cairo's revamped Cinema Karim

Cinema Karim
Facade of the Cinema Karim (Photo: Mai Shaheen)

For the first time in its eight editions, the Panorama of the European Film reached out to Karim Cinema, a venue located in downtown’s Emad El Deen Street. In fact, hosting over 50 of Panorama’s screenings in its premises, Cinema Karim is among the two main venues involved in the annual event. In parallel to Cinema Karim, Zawya (Cinema Odeon) holds an equal amount of screenings, topped with chosen films presented at Plaza and Point 90 cinemas, alongside venues in Alexandria, Tanta and Minya.

Founded in the 1980s as a venue for alternative Egyptian and international films, Cinema Karim is undeniably one of the movie theatre landmarks of Cairo’s downtown. It was closed during the last few years until when in June 2014 the New Century Production Company (CNPC) rented the venue from the Cinema Syndicate. Following some restorations in February 2015, the cinema reopened its doors as Dunia Karim.

The movie theatre has a newly renovated interior and exterior but preserves the classic architecture of the building and surrounding area. Revamped, infused with high tech equipment and modern design, the main hall seats 480 viewers, while the small hall maintains a capacity of 110.

Cinema Karim
Cinema Karim (Photo: Mai Shaheen)

“This is our hope- to revive alternative film screenings in Cairo’s downtown, as it used to be in the past,” Zakaria Mohie Eldeen, the cinema’s manager, tells Ahram Online.

Mohie Eldeen, who has been in the field for over 18 years, underlines that hosting Panorama is among some very important steps for the venue and “will help to attract a new kind of audience to the now-abandoned smaller halls. A lot of followers of mainstream films– such as El Sobky’s productions – hardly pay any visits to cinemas located outside the mega malls, like Karim.”

He goes to explain that though prices of the tickets in mega malls are usually higher, people prefer them because they find all activities centred in one place: they can do shopping, eat in a restaurant and watch a movie. Mohie Eldeen points to large complexes and malls such as City Stars, Americana Plaza and Mall of Arabia.

“The distributors support this strategy by giving those cinemas the right to premiere the films, and to let them have the best films in the city,” Mohie Eldeen elaborates.

Cinema Karim
Interior of the Cinema Karim (Photo: courtesy of the Cinema Karim)

“On the other hand, the production companies put pressure on the Ministry of Culture, a result of which usually ten copies of the foreign films are released, and of course they are distributed across the large malls. They keep talking about protecting the local industry, but the question is how many Egyptian films do we have anyway?”

He highlights that even modern cinemas outside the mega malls, such as Ramses Hilton, are prey of this strategy. The cinema is located in a low profile shopping centre in the hotel’s vicinity close to Tahrir Square. “It used to be a venue that premiered many films. They don't have that privilege anymore,” Mohie Eldeen explains.

He also points to the fact that while the major event, the Cairo International Film Festival, could be an opportunity for the cinemas across the city to host the screenings, the films are screened within the halls located at the Cairo Opera House’s grounds.

“It is all centres on one ground, not like it used to be many years ago,” he adds.

Cinema Karim
Cinema Karim (Photo: Mai Shaheen)

With the hall struggling to attract the viewers, Mohie Eldeen says that “our high season is during the feasts, when audiences await new films. Yet in the regular days our visitors do not exceed 100 persons a day, with a small increase on weekends. Panorama brings a lot of students, and intellectuals to our halls. I’m very glad that this is happening.”

He adds that the average audience during Panorama rose to 200 a day.

“This is a great step,” he asserts trying to find a bright side to the otherwise challenging circumstances.

“The Panorama of the European Film is an opportunity to attract a new audience and create some kind of a different commotion in downtown. We definitely need more festivals presenting films, more opportunities which would embrace many downtown venues, including several cultural centres scattered across its streets. Even if for starters we talk about a certain niche of the viewers, we should build upon that and bit by bit, we’ll be able to revive all the smaller cinemas in Cairo’s downtown.”

Cinema Karim
Panorama representatives inside Cinema Karim (Photo: Mai Shaheen)

Check Panorama's programme here and Ahram Online recommendations here.

*Ahram Online is the main media sponsor of The Panorama of the European Film and of Zawya.

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