Only two cinemas left in Baghdad

By Patrick von Sychowski | September 19, 2007 10:46 am PDT

Atlas cinema has an interesting though sad article and video from Reuters about one of the last cinemas left in Iraqi capital Baghdad (‘Iraq’s cinemas lost in violence‘), the Atlas cinema in the up-market Mansur district. Far from being a safe airconditioned refuge from the searing summer heat and sectarian violence, the cinema stands largely empty as patrons stay home to watch satellite TV or pirated DVDs instead of venturing out to catch an Egyptian, Bollywood or Hollywood film.

“Despite the fact that we have cinemas, cinemas that we are proud of as al-Nasr, Samiramis and al-Khayam, a huge cinema that was one of the finest in the Middle East, yet no more than 20 to 30 people are entering them now. When you enter these high-class cinemas now you will feel a pain in your heart,” says Film Operator Khalaf Aziz Radhi.

Before the invasion, the seats of the once-popular cinemas were hardly ever empty. The fall of Saddam Hussein was meant to liberalise Iraq’s cinema overnight. But the ongoing violence, power cuts and early curfews have crippled business. Once open until midnight, cinemas now close by 4 pm.

With daily life a battle, the article says that “in a nation where dozens are dying by the day, a visit to the cinema is the last thought these Iraqis entertain,” though I would like to think that a bit of escapism is precisely what people might need. The irony is that while neighbouring Kuwait is rolling out digital cinema, Iraq is on its way to joining Saudi Arabia as the only country in the world with no cinemas. AFP also has an article on this subject, but you need to pay to read it. (Photo:

Patrick von Sychowski
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