The opening of the multi-screen Cinema Cities complex in Jerusalem couldn’t have come at a better time for the capital’s beleaguered moviegoers.
Jerusalem used to be a great town for cinema lovers, and in spite of the capital’s reputation, Jerusalemites love movies. Movie theaters are one of the few places where secular Jews, National Religious, ultra-Orthodox and Arabs coexist in complete harmony. All the varied groups of Jerusalem residents are well represented among movie audiences, no matter what their spiritual leaders may have to say about popular entertainment.
But following a worldwide trend, single-screen theaters have almost gone out of existence in the city. The city center once boasted a large number of theaters, considering the city’s relatively small population for a capital. There were the Ron, the Gil and the Or-Gil in and around Hillel Street, and the Kfir on Jaffa Street.
Foreign journalists used to see movies in the theater in Beit Agron, where many of their offices were housed, and which is now home to the Time Elevator show. The Edison Theater, which had a particularly pleasant, old-fashioned, movie-palace atmosphere, closed in 1995 and is now being converted to apartments for Satmar Hassidim. The Eden Cinema is a parking lot on the edge of Agrippas Street today. The multiplex in the Malcha Mall is now an H&M store.
Just outside the city, the two-screen theater at the Harel Mall in Mevasseret closed years ago.
The city’s first movie theater was Feingold House on Jaffa Street. It opened in 1908, and is now a courtyard filled with restaurants.
Today, Lev Smadar on Lloyd George Street in the German Colony is the only single-screen theater left.
The Jerusalem Cinematheque has four screens that show wonderful art movies and classics. The Jerusalem Theater shows several films a week on two screens. The Jerusalem International Convention Center has three screens and quite comfortable seats, but there is often a great deal of traffic nearby, since it is so close to the entrance to the city.
Until Cinema Cities opened, there was just one large multiplex in the city, Rav Chen Jerusalem in Talpiot’s industrial area. As a frequent moviegoer who has seen dozens, perhaps hundreds of movies there, I know I speak for many when I say that it may well be the least pleasant place in the world to see movies. It’s particularly bad after the film, because the audience is ushered out into a network of corridors and staircases that often lead to locked doors rather than the lobby. The theater staff is particularly shabby in its treatment of the elderly and others who can’t navigate these staircases.
So it’s with great joy that the moviegoers of Jerusalem can welcome a new era in the history of Jerusalem moviegoing.
And Cinema Cities is just the first step – YES Planet is also building a multi-screen theater in the Abu Tor neighborhood near Derech Hebron which is set to open in about a year.