Edens, Here and There

We were walking in the Marrakech medina last week when we came across this old movie theater, just a stone’s throw away from the historic Jamaa El Fna square. Such cinema houses are now a rarity in Morocco–most of them closed down in the last twenty years, due to the relentless competition from pirated films. According to this recent article on Magharebia, the number of movie theaters in Morocco has gone from 280 in 1980 to just 85 by the end of 2006. In addition:

Director Saad Charaib explains that when the government worked out the details of its policy to support film production ($3.5 million annually), it failed to create a parallel policy to expand the broadcasting and cinema operation sector. He says that the total number of cinema-goers in 2000 was 13 million, whereas now the figure has dropped to 5 million. In his view there are several reasons, but chief among them is piracy, which draws many Moroccans away from cinemas. They would rather buy a film for ten dirhams than pay 30 dirhams to watch it at the cinema.

I was talking to one of my uncles about this–he used to be a movie nut when I was a child, so I wanted his opinion. He said he couldn’t remember the last time he had been in a theater. And of course he missed seeing a movie on the big screen, but he also missed the social aspect of going out to the movies, and interacting with friends and acquaintances rather than staying cooped up at home, watching a pirated film whose quality is so bad you can’t even suspend disbelief long enough to lose yourself in the story. I was also struck by the name of the theater in the Marrakech medina. Maybe if there were more Edens right here, young men would not be looking for Edens elsewhere.