Wednesday, March 17, 2010

The Decline of Cinemas in Morocco

Walking by the the Cinema Boujloud in Fez is a sad experience for anyone who loves old movie houses. This once bustling cinema is closed and used for storage of market goods. The seating was still in place in the auditorium when seen in 2006. Cinema Boujaloud is symptomatic of the Moroccan cinema market which has been suffering a severe decline during the past years.

Old Cinemas are cultural treasures. If you need proof of this go visit Meknes. Cinema Camera opened in 1938, the foyer areas contain beautiful murals by artist Marcel Couderc. Now days the Cinema Camera is a first-run theatre showing mostly foreign films with French subtitles. It also shows Moroccan films, and the occasional Bollywood film.

The age of the theatres is not always easy to find, but, for example, Cinema Rex in Fez opened in 1942.

The Cinema Roxy is one of the oldest, still operating cinemas in Tangier. It is located in the Ville Nouvelle area of the city. Designed in Art Moderne style, it was recently renovated in 2005, with the interior receiving gold leaf on the decorative grilles beside the screen and a coat of gold paint on the ceiling. The Roxy, which has been described as 'elegant but cramped', screens the latest 'Bollywood' movies and is also a venue used for the Tangier National Film Festival.

Cinematheque de Tanger, is also interesting. Originally opened in 1948 as the Cinema Rif which had a seating capacity of 500. It is located just outside the ancient city walls in the Ville Nouvelle area by the Grand Socco (Grand Market). In its last few years it played 'Bollywood' films.

In 2005 it was re-designed by French architect Jean-Marc Lalo into a modern arthouse cinema which opened on 29th May 2006. There are two screens, one seating 380, the smaller one seating 60. A novel innovation is that the projectors can be turned outwards to provide open-air screenings for up to 4,000 people in the large market square.

The Decline

Box office revenues were nearly reduced by half in less than 10 years. In 2009, cinema revenues reached barely 68mln DH ($US 8.32 million dollars), down from 117mln DH ($US 14.32 million) in 2001. (Figures from research company Dataxis Intelligence’s market data.)

With movie admission reaching less than 2.6mln in 2009 (down 19% from a year earlier) and a population of 31.5mln inhabitants, the country saw its admission per capita stand once again at an extremely low level (0.08).

What can account for the gradual collapse of the Cinema market in Morocco?

If we look at figures from countries that have comparable GDPs per capita, we can easily see that the economic conditions of the country, which have been relatively improving during the past years, cannot really be held responsible for this trend.

Colombia for instance recorded 21.561 million admissions in 2008 and generated 155.7mln Colombian Pesos from this activity in the same year, according to Dataxis Intelligence’s market data. This represents nearly 0.5 admissions per capita, compared to 0.08 in Morocco.

On the other hand, 2009 was one of the best years in terms of cinematographic production in Morocco. However, this did not prevent movie admission and revenues from falling.

What about movie theatres?

Twenty years ago, Morocco had around 200 movie theatres nationwide. This figure fell to 54 theatres and 77 screens in 2009. Dilapidated movie theatres are closing every year. Others are more and more deserted by movie goers.

In an attempt to meet an increasing demand for more ‘attractive’ cinemas, the experience of installing sophisticated movie theatres was initiated a few years ago. It is right now gradually duplicating in some of the country’s major cities.

These centers, which involved unprecedented investments in this field (75mln DH, or US9.2mln for the Megarama Centre in Marrakech: See our story here: Megarama), have managed to attract more and more movie goers.

The magnificent Rialto Cinema opened in 1930. In the past it has hosted stars such as Edith Piaf and Josephine Baker performing on its stage.

Unfortunately, these local initiatives are failing to stop the national cinema market’s hemorrhage. Below is a list of the old cinemas and the number of screens they operate.


Cinema Rialto - Open 1
Cinema Sahara - Open 1


Cinema Anfa - Open 1
Cinema ABC - Open …
Cinema Atlas - Open 1
Cinema Colisee - Open 1
Cinema Eden Club - Open 1
Cinema La Mirage - Open 1
Cinema Le Cinefar - Open 1
Cinema Le Verdun - Open 1
Cinema Lutetia - Open 1
Cinema Lynx - Open 1
Cinema Rif - Open 1
Cinema Ritz - Open 1
Rialto Cinema - Open 1
Cinema Saada - Open 1
Vox Cinema - Closed/Demolished 1


Cinema al Amal - Open 1
Cinema Arc En Ciel - Open 1
Cinema Astor - Closed 1
Cinema Atlas - Open 1
Cinema Bijou - Open 1
Cinema Boujloud - Closed 1
Cinema Chaab - Open 1
Cinema Empire - Open 1
Cinema Friouato - Open 1
Cinema Imperial - Open 1
Cinema Rex - Open 1


Cinema Camera - Open 1


Cinema Fairouz - Open 1
Cinema Royal - Open 1


Cinema Roxy- Open 1
Cinematheque de Tanger - Open 2
Le Paris Cinema - Open 1
Mauritania Cinema - Open 1
Tarik Cinema - Open 1

(Photo Arne Kuilman)

The View from Fez would like to acknowledge the great work done by the Cinema Treasures website in raising awareness of old movie houses.

Incidently' according to the fabulous Yaccout website,: The 15th Moroccan Film Days, organized by the Association of Film Creation Medi Morocco, will be held in Fez from 24 to 27 March under the theme "the Moroccan film first".

This year’s event will look at the use of Italian cinema. Italian cinema has been used in films from the early 90s of last century covering the Renaissance and an artistic technique.

Some Italian directors and actors will travel to Fez to comment on the films and discuss them with film fans. Eighteen short films are on the Italian menu for this event, initiated in partnership with the Moroccan Cinematographic Centre and the urban commune of Fez.

The event will pay tribute to the Moroccan actress Safia Ziani, in recognition of her career on stage at the theatre, radio, television and cinema.

At the level of Moroccan films, organizers have planned this year's projection and discussion of 6 short films and 3 feature films.

The short films that will be screened are "Al-Bayer" by Sheikh Rashid and "Sin palabras" by Othmane Naciri, "Fatima" and "Bouiba" by Samia Charkioui, "Lost Soul" by Jihane El Bahhar and "Silence of high voice" by Driss Idrissi.

Three other films which have attracted the public's enthusiasm and interest are critical to the menu of these days, namely "Time Comrades" by Mohamed Cherif Tribak, "Kharbouch" by Hamid Zoughi and "Street of Cairo" by Abdelkrim Derkaoui.

Over the years these film days have become popular artistic and cultural meetings which, according to organizers, try to accompany the dynamics facing the Moroccan film industry both in production as well as in participation in various national and international festivals.


Karl W. Lohninger said...

Thanks for sharing this information. I've worked on 2 movies shot in Morocco in the last 3 years and it was such a wonderful experience! Sad to hear about the decline of the theatre palaces, very sad. How much are ticket prices? Could that have to do with it?

Piggy said...

Much the same in the UK and the USA. With the advent of large screen HD T/V who needs to go to the Cinema?
You can enjoy a movie without others making a noise or feeding their faces.