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.
It is worth noting that Erbil is the largest city in the Iraqi Kurdistan region. The Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) is exerting strenuous efforts to introduce the city to the Arab world and attract Arab tourists.
Makary noted that the 14 theaters have seating capacities of 100 to 400 persons. “Some movies are showing simultaneously with the US,” he said, adding that theaters will air films from Hollywood, Bollywood, Egypt, Iraqi Kurdistan, and Turkey. Currently, the theaters provide Arabic translation of the movies. Makary said that they are working on adding Kurdish translations, given that the majority of attendees are Kurds and Arabs.