Wednesday, February 11, 2015

Death of Another Moroccan Cinema ~ El Teatro Español de Tetuán

Tetouan's Spanish Theatre is to close at the end of this month, bringing to an end yet another piece of Morocco's cultural heritage.

For nearly eighty years El Teatro Español de Tetuán has been a landmark and reminder of the days when the city was the capital of Spanish Protectorate (1912-1956).

Built in the thirties, El Teatro Español, has been killed off by modernity, by online downloads and pirated DVDs sold for just 7 dirhams a copy.

If there is no last minute miracle , the "Spanish" (as it is known in Tetouan) will by the end of the month suffer the same fate as the other cinemas in the city - The Monumental, National and Victoria - all of which have closed. The only thing remaining will be the name "Cinema Avenue".

The Boudih family, who own the cinema, say they have bowed to the inevitable. "We have endured the unspeakable, we tried to combine culture and business, we have lowered the prices, rented the spacer for other acts, but there is nothing to do: piracy has made us unprofitable," laments Nureddin Boudih.

The family did not give in easily and, without any financial assistance undertook renovations including twice refurbishing the 1,000 seats auditorium and preserving the architecture historic architecture make it a facility unparalleled in the city.

The Boudih family acquired the cinema in 1974 and has over the years opened the room for other cultural uses, such as the prestigious Festival of the Lute or provided  auxiliary classrooms for the neighbouring Cervantes Institute.

But none of this has been enough. "The building needs a lot of maintenance, and the state does not help us with grants or in any other way also not fight against piracy," says Boudih. "My family lives on this. We prefer to retain a single room, the Cinema Avenue," he said.

Nobody criticises the Boudih family but a Facebook page titled "No to the closure of the Spanish Theater" has started up and has over 3000 followers.

The fate of the Spanish Theatre follows the same path as almost all historic theatres in Morocco (see story here) . One after the other has closed and now only 31 remain active, compared with 191 some thirty years ago.

Except for two multiplex complexes in Marrakech, Fez and Casablanca, the other cinemas are old, with ancient furniture, and screen mainly Indian or Egyptian movies for as little as , Moroccan sometimes, for close to two euros  a ticket - amounts that make it impossible to refurbish or even maintain the buildings .

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