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Iraqi Kurdistan Seeks Cinema Revival

With Erbil slated to be the 2014 Arab Capital of Tourism, the city has teamed up with the private sector to build 14 movie theaters, decades after general interest in cinema had dwindled.
A resident walks at the entrance of a cinema in Baghdad April 26, 2011. Iraq once had 82 cinemas, 64 of them located in the teeming capital, home to about 7 million of Iraq's 30 million people. One by one, they closed during the Saddam era, when the government controlled the selection and importation of films, until only five remained at the time of the invasion. The insurgency that followed and killed tens of thousands of people made Iraqis afraid of being in public places and crowds. They chose the relati
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Over the past two decades, the citizens of the Iraqi Kurdistan region have refrained from going to movie theaters. Some of these theaters, which succumbed to neglect, have been demolished and turned into parking lots or warehouses after they failed to generate any profit. However, this June, 14 movie theaters were opened as part of a joint Iraqi-Lebanese project. Characterized by modern design and specifications, four of the theaters are even 3-D.

Lebanese national Pierre Makary, CEO of Empire Cinema in Erbil, told Al-Monitor that the owners of the company are Mario and Jino Haddad. The two came to Erbil, assessed the situation and concluded that entertainment venues should be built in the city, especially after it was named the 2014 Arab Capital of Tourism by Arab foreign affairs ministers. The Haddads have owned movie theaters in Lebanon since 1919, and have now concluded an agreement with Iraqi-Kurdish partners to launch the project.

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