The name of the new entertainment complex under construction in Jerusalem’s Abu Tor neighborhood is the Yes Planet Sherover Cultural Center, and the answer to the burning question in many Jerusalemites’ minds is also a resounding “Yes” – the movie theaters in this complex will be open on Shabbat.
Jerusalem Mayor Nir Barkat confirmed this at a lavish press conference – complete with champagne and hors d’oeuvres – held on Tuesday at the site that will become a 16-screen movie, entertainment and restaurant complex by June 2015.
“It is a private venture,” said Barkat. “And it will be open and will operate within the status quo.” He pointed out that this is not a departure from the current state of affairs, noting, “Movie theaters are open on Shabbat in Jerusalem and will continue to operate on Shabbat... the movie theaters [in this complex] will be open on Shabbat.”
In contrast, the recently-opened Cinema City movie complex near the Supreme Court will remain closed on Shabbat. The 19-screen, eight-floor facility is built on public land leased from the Finance Ministry, and the Supreme Court ruled in March in response to an appeal by its owners that Cinema City must close on Friday night and Saturday. The owners of Cinema City have said that once the Yes Planet Sherover Cultural Center opens it will represent unfair competition.
At the open-air press reception on Tuesday, Barkat noted another factor that will be an advantage for Yes Planet: the incredible beauty of the view east from Abu Tor, where the theaters will be situated on a hilltop on Naomi Street.
“Looking at the view and the amazing location of this new complex reminds me that there are some things money can’t buy, and this is one of them,” he said, raising his hand to indicate the rolling hills of Jerusalem and the Judean desert.
He spoke enthusiastically of the many new cultural and commercial projects planned for Jerusalem, and said that cooperation between the public and private sectors in Jerusalem would eventually revitalize the city.
“This NIS 150 million investment by Yes Planet will add value to the city,” he said.
Muki Gredinger, the CEO of Yes Planet, said that the complex would feature 16 screens, among them an IMAX theater, as well as auditoriums that use DX4 technology, which is intended to make the viewer feel that he is right up on the screen with the actors. Gredinger said that this would be the second IMAX theater in Israel.
The complex will also feature many other attractions, including stores and restaurants, some of which will be kosher and will be closed on Shabbat, according to Uzi Wexler, chairman of the Sherover Foundation.
Wexler said that the complex would become a new cultural center that would cover its own costs and would not need to rely on donations.
The crowd of reporters, many of whom were bussed in from Tel Aviv for the event, were shown short films about DX4 technology and also about IMAX, where prominent directors such as Michael Bay, Alfonso Cuaron and Zack Snyder extolled the virtues of IMAX technology.
“It takes your movie and puts it on steroids,” said Snyder, as snippets of car chases and space walks were shown, which were a bit incongruous alongside the gorgeous view and soundtrack of chirping birds.
Gredinger outlined the history of Yes Planet and its parent company, Cinema City International (not to be confused with Cinema City, the other Israeli chain), at length, from its beginning in 1930 when it opened the Ein Dor Cinema in Haifa, to the present, when it operates 966 screens in Israel and its recent merger with Cineworld in England has made it the second- largest film exhibitor in Europe.
While this corporate history may hold interest for businesspeople, for Jerusalem movie-lovers the 16 additional screens will be the main event, and will be worth waiting a year for.