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The latest expansion of Swedish commercial capitalism is arriving soon - at the cost of movie theaters across the country. The popular Swedish H&M fashion chain is based on the same concept as that other Swedish success story IKEA - last year's designs at affordable prices - and Globus Group movie theaters are being paid NIS 20 million to evacuate the Azrieli Mall in Tel Aviv and Malha Mall in Jerusalem by October to make room for the stores.
This is not the first time that cinemas have been closed to make way for retailers: Movie theaters were removed from Ramat Aviv and Savionim malls, and the cinema at Rishon Lezion's Rothschild mall was also recently replaced by fashion stores.
But Jerusalem - the host of the esteemed Jerusalem Film Festival; the city whose mayor called it "the film capital"; the city that recently hosted Hollywood producers to persuade them to shoot movies on location - is only providing bad news for its film lovers.
A representative of the Azrieli Group said the decision to close the Globus movie houses was made based on broad surveys. It is a matter of the bottom line, as the manager of Malha Mall said: The public "preferred one product over another."
In Tel Aviv, there are more than 30 cinemas, with dozens more in surrounding areas. The decision to evacuate Globus in Tel Aviv's Azrieli Mall is an informed economical choice. According to the mall's CEO Arnon Toren, "The Azrieli Mall has over 30,000 visitors on a daily basisâ€¦ The opening of H&M will increase the number of visitors to the mall and [their] satisfaction."
The CEO of Azrieli Mall group, Pe'er Nadir, believes that "cinemas are not necessary for malls."
There is a shift for mall management to build freestanding multiplexes that aren't attached to shopping centers - much like the Yes Planet in Ramat Gan and Haifa. But the Azrieli Group is not planning to build alternative cinema houses to replace the evacuated Globus movie theaters, although a representative from Globus told The Jerusalem Post that the company was planning to find another Jerusalem location in the near future.
Moreover, unlike Tel Avivians, Jerusalem film-goers don't have the same choice of cinemas throughout their city - the closure of Globus in Malha will reduce the already dwindling number of movie screens to 11.
The imminent closure of Globus leaves fans of Hollywood box-office hits with severely limited entertainment choices in the capital: The revered Lev Smadar cinema, the Jerusalem Cinematheque and the Jerusalem Theater specialize in art-house movies and not necessarily in the most popular films. To enjoy a Hollywood blockbuster, Jerusalemites will be left with the Rav Chen, the last cineplex on the edge of town in the Talpiot industrial area.
Adding to the Jerusalem film-goer's woe, the venerable Lev Smadar might be offered for sale, after a Jerusalem District Court ruling last week. As the only single-screen theater left in Jerusalem, the indie Smadar has a devoted following.
However, after a legal dispute between its owners, sisters Sara Harish and Nava Chichek, the 81-year-old Jerusalem icon is being sold to the highest bidder. Many contractors, real estate companies and even the theater's legal receivers, attorneys Yoram Aviram and Reuven Yehoshua, have put in offers to buy the cinema and develop its land value. In the meantime, the Lev Smadar will continue to screen movies, as it will not be evacuated until 2011. After that, who knows where Jerusalem film fans will turn to next?
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