Cinemas in Tunisia

As a cinema lover, it’s really about time I wrote about this. It’s an issue that’s been eating away at me for ages. When the hell are Cinemas in Tunisia going to get their act together?!

Ever since I was a child, the state of cinemas in Tunisia has only been getting worse and worse. Not one new cinema has opened, yet a number of old ones have closed. The only somewhat happy event was the re-opening of a cinema in La Marsa, Al Hambra, in the Zephyr shopping center.

The Habib Bourguiba road in downtown Tunis is lined with a number of cinemas on both sides, the suburbs of Tunis have a number of cinemas, and almost every big city in Tunisia has a few, which is great, but then all you see on them are posters for really old movies, that you’ve already seen a number of times and archived as cinematic history in your brain somewhere.

And when you do venture in to one of these cinemas to watch a movie just for the sake of it, you find yourself in a smelly non-conditioned room, with dirty torn seats. The movie begins and the quality of the picture is really bad and you can barely hear the sound. As if all that is not enough, mobile phones keep on ringing, people keep on talking and laughing loudly and well then you have the people who aren’t really there for the movie, but mainly because it’s cheaper than a hotel room.

Cinema owners complain that satellite dishes and pirated tapes and CDs stole their customers away and that because less and less people are going to cinemas, they can’t afford to renew, bring in new material or show new movies.

On the other hand, if a cinema shows a movie months, if not years, after it becomes old enough to be shown on some free satellite channel, then why would anyone bother to go to the cinema? Especially if the quality is crappier than the worst pirated DivX around?

I am sure that if one of these cinemas invested in creating a great cinematic experience for its viewers, with a great quality huge picture, cool surround sound, really new movies, clean theatre, comfortable chairs, delicious popcorn and what not; then the people would come and they would be ready to pay double, triple, if not more, the price they pay now.
After all, nothing equals the experience of watching a movie on a giant screen with amazing sound while munching away at something delicious. Home Cinema, with all its splendor, barely tries to come close.

Why am I so sure? Because I saw it happen in Jordan.
When I went to Jordan in 1996, the state of Cinemas there was almost worse than in Tunisia, if that is possible. And the cinema owners were saying the same stuff I hear up to now in Tunisia.
But then some people invested in building new cinemas or renewing older ones, offering a great cinematic experience and movies on the day of their international release, and those cinemas got packed with people paying more than triple the price of the old ticket and spending a lot on popcorn, drinks, chocolates and more.

And I’m just stating Jordan as an example because it was very similar to Tunisia. But everywhere around the world, cinemas that offer great entertainment for their viewers are packed even if the ticket price is high, and even though there is piracy everywhere and satellite dishes everywhere.

So why don’t we revive cinemas in Tunisia too?
Why doesn’t someone invest in a new cinema? renew an old one? bring new movies to the country?
Enough of all the caf

  • M2K

    I think the most problem is that the movie come 1 year after their projection in USA, Europe and after the “Videotheque” (pirat)

  • A.

    Oh man I hear you ! enough of “Die hard” and “les femmes de 30 ans”… hadhaka ach famma

  • Sleeplessjojo

    Dude, you are reviving wounds that I am trying to heal… I soooo very much going to movies, it hurts. I used to go once or twice a week back in DC, and now, I made the mistake of going to one the other day, only to exit after 30 mns (and trust me, I am a fan that will hold on, but the noise, smells, and the other kind of “noise” was too much)… I think there are no investments because they are just too scared, and nobody has the cojones to just invest… Perhaps all of us ex-immigrants can pool our funds together and open up one?

  • Heliodore

    Primo :
    Quand j’avais vingt ans environ, on allait au cin

  • chaker ayadi

    i was just in tunisia few days ago because my documentary was being screened in the Carthage Film Festival (JCC). i was struck by the poor state of the movie theaters in tunis, the country’s capital. it started with the poor organization of the festival (lack of maps, mixing up of film categories (documentaries competing with feature films, etc.), total dis-interest in guests, etc.) i noticed how the glamor of being in the festival was being priviledged over seeing the films themselves. but then this glamor was due to the myopic consideration of the festival organizers, not knowing that other festivals have sprung up after carthage and surpassed it in the quality of films and the organization. really amateur undertaking as far as i could see. i wish that these older people (the ones now in charge) could relinquish their grip over the festival (once the most prestigious in africa and the arab world) and hand it over to a younger generation, more eager to do a better job, and less burdened by older and more conservative reflexes. one reason why cinema in tunisia is in such a dismal state is because there’s no ongoing education of the newer generation in film arts. there’s still no cinematheque in tunisia and cineclubs are pretty much dead. there is no way to have movie goers appreciative of better movies if there is no rejuvenated film culture in the country. in more developed and cutured societies more movie theaters are being built (film courses have become a must in most schools), but not in tunisia. there is a total lack of interest and tastes are degenerating into mediocrity. if film culture continues to disintegrate, there is no hope we’ll see better movie theaters and even lesser chances of having better movies.