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Gulf Cinema overhaul to delay reopening for another six months

Gulf Cinema premises on C Ring

Elysia Windrum

Gulf Cinema premises on C Ring

Gulf Cinema, once a popular leisure destination for Qatar’s blue-collar expats, will be closed for at least another six months while “maintenance and development works” take place, according to a tender for the work posted in today’s newspapers by the site’s owners.

This timeframe suggests that the site will likely not open again until April 2016 at the very earliest.

The cinema complex – which is situated on C-Ring Road in Najma – was closed with no notice in early 2013.

Though officials at the complex said at the time that it would re-open “within a few weeks,” it has remained closed ever since.

Development

In December 2013, the Qatar Cinema and Film Distribution Company (QCFDC) put out a tender for works to be carried out to “implement all civil defence requirements” for the building, confirming for the first time that the complex had been closed because it did not meet government safety standards.

Gulf Cinema tender advert September 2015

Gulf Times

Gulf Cinema tender advert September 2015

In today’s tender, the Qatar Cinema asked for companies to bid to carry out “comprehensive development and maintenance” of the building, adding that the work “shall not exceed a period of six calendar months.”

Interested parties have seven days to submit their bids, but it is not clear when a decision will be made and when work on the site is expected to begin.

Lack of information about plans for the future of the complex and a lack of obvious building activity at the site have both prompted speculation that it might be demolished to make way for a new development.

Last year, however, the CEO of the complex told journalists that renovation work had begun, and that the cinema had been expected to reopen last fall.

He told the Gulf Times that the designs had taken some time as they had been working to ensure “that every requirement as stipulated by the local authorities is met.”

However, a manager at the complex told Doha News last year that the work was “still in the design stage.”

Lack of affordable cinemas

However delayed it might be, the re-opening of the 30,000sqm standalone complex is likely to be welcomed by many of the country’s lower-income expats, who were the cinema’s primary customers.

Grand Mall Hypermarket in Asian Town.

Penny Yi Wang

Grand Mall Hypermarket in Asian Town.

Unable to visit many of the city’s most popular mall-based movie theaters at weekends during to “family only” rules (which have since been relaxed), many men relied on the cinema for entertainment in their time off.

The complex traditionally offered a wide range of films in the workers’ own languages, at a price they could afford.

Despite significant growth in the country’s cinema sector, the low-income market remains under-served, with the only remaining lower-priced cinemas in Doha at Asian Town (formerly known as West End Park) near the Industrial Area.

Asian Town’s movie theaters charge QR20 per ticket compared to the typical QR35 at other cinemas and focus on Hindi and Tamil movies aimed at Qatar’s large Indian population.

Thoughts?

Qatar mall aims to open Al Khor’s first cinema by September

Al Khor cinema

Via Al Khor Mall

Al Khor cinema

The growing northern city of Al Khor is expected to get its first movie theater this fall, when a mall there opens a three-screen multiplex cinema in time for Eid al-Adha, toward the end of September.

Speaking to Doha News this week, Al Khor mall manager Navaneeth Sudhakaran said that the cinema will be able to accommodate some 600 movie-goers, with the halls seating 100-300 people each.

Al Khor cinema

Via Al Khor Mall

Al Khor cinema

The theater was originally expected to open in April, but Sudhakaran said plans fell a bit behind schedule.

“Realistically speaking, we’re (now) in a much better place to open. All of the cinema’s ‘fitouts’ are done. All that’s remaining is a few approvals from governmental bodies, and we’re good to go in a week,” he added.

The expansion of recreational offerings in Al Khor is part of Qatar’s plan to cater to residents outside of the crowded capital city of Doha.

In addition to adding leisure activities, the country has also been improving healthcare services and building schools in satellite cities such as Al Khor and Al Wakrah.

Last year, the Qatar Tourism Authority also said it wanted to increase the number of attractions outside of Doha as part of its long-term plan to attract more visitors to the country.

More cinemas

According to Sudhakaran, Al Khor mall’s cinema halls can be rented out for private viewings, special screenings and to watch major sports events.

“Al Khor is a satellite city, mostly for communities, associations, and large families, so the small screen concept is what works here. Instead of VIP lounges or screens, we’ve decided to give people the option of booking the cinema for private viewings. A large family can reserve the theatre for a party or gathering,” he said.

The three halls are part of 47 new cinema screens scheduled to open before the end of the year, doubling the current number of screens the six theaters in Qatar have.

Gulf Mall

Gulf Mall/Facebook

Gulf Mall

The Al Khor mall cinema will be operated by Cineco, a Bahraini company that currently manages 27 screens in Qatar, including at City Center and Villaggio malls.

The new Gulf Mall, next to Ezdan, is also set to have a 13-screen multiplex cinema run by Cineco sometime this fall, though the opening date remains tentative.

While ticket prices at Al Khor Mall have yet to be set, Sudhakaran said that they would probably be on par with prices at other Cineco-managed screens in Doha, which run about QR35/person.

Thoughts?

Number of cinema screens in Qatar to double by end of 2015

For illustrative purposes only

Vox Cinema/Facebook

For illustrative purposes only

The number of cinema screens inside multiplexes in Qatar is set to double by the end of this year, as new movie theaters are expected to open in four shopping malls by December.

There are currently 48 cinema screens operating inside of six theaters, but a total of 47 new multiplex screens are expected to launch in Qatar in the coming months.

The new Gulf Mall, next to Ezdan, is set to have a 13-screen multiplex cinema run by Bahrain Cinema Company (Cineco) by the fall, the company’s CEO chief executive Ahmed Rashed told Gulf Daily News last month.

While there is no official launch date yet for this mall, some stores, including the low-price clothing and home goods store Matalan, have already begun trading, with more set to follow soon.

Cineco also plans to finally open a three-screen cinema in Al Khor Mall as early as April, if the launch time of the “start of the second quarter of the year” works out.

In March last year, the company’s Chairman Dr. Essam Fakhro told shareholders at the annual general meeting that plans to launch the two new cinemas had suffered set-backs.

“Our new projects of 13 screens Cineplex in Gulf Mall and three screens Cineplex in Al Khor Mall, both in Qatar, are delayed because of the mall management,” Gulf Daily News quoted him as saying at the time.

Cineco currently operates 27 cinema screens in Qatar, including the movie theater at City Center Mall.

Twar Mall

The under-construction Twar Mall on Al Markhiya Street (down the road from Landmark Mall) will also have a 12-screen movie theater, including two VIP screens and a VIP lounge, when opens by the end of this year, its manager Raid Maddah told Doha News.

The cinema will be run by Qatar Cinema and Film Distribution Company, which also runs nine screens across three cinemas at Landmark Mall, Royal Plaza and The Mall, Gulf Times reports.

Twar Mall

Twar Mall

Twar Mall rendering

Current progress on construction of Twar Mall makes the scheduled year-end launch date seem ambitious. But when the development does finally open its doors, the shopping center will also include a four-star Millennium Hotel and what will be Qatar’s first SPAR hypermarket.

The brand, which began in The Netherlands in the 1930s, has stores in 40 countries internationally and is embarking on an expansion throughout the Middle East, with 30 stores set to open by 2016, SPAR said in a statement on its website.

The QR1.8 billion Twar Mall will be three floors, with 265 stores as well as eating areas and entertainment, and two basement levels of parking for 2,600 cars.

Its features will include an oriental-themed rooftop garden, a 1,000-seater food court, a family entertainment center and an as-yet unnamed department store.

Mall of Qatar

Mall of Qatar rendering.

Mall of Qatar

Mall of Qatar rendering.

Meanwhile, Mall of Qatar, on Dukhan Road near Al Rayyan stadium, is also eyeing an official opening date of the end of this year, although that deadline may be pushed back.

It will house a 19-screen cinema with a capacity for 3,000 viewers, and include an IMAX screen, six VIP screens and a 10-lane bowling alley, according to a statement released by the mall last year.

And the opening of Doha Festival City, currently set for late 2016, should further boost the movie theater provision in Qatar. Its 19-screen VOX cinema complex will bring to the country for the first time 4D features.

This will allow viewers to experience sensations as well as visuals – such as rain, fog, wind, bubbles, scents and vibrations – depending on what’s happening on-screen.

Movie demand

The increase in the number of movie theaters in Qatar appears to reflect a growing appetite among the population for cinema.

According to the Ministry of Development, Planning and Statistics29th edition of Qatar in Figures which was released last month, the cinema audience in Qatar rose by 41 percent in the two years from 2011 to 2013, with 2.43 million visits to cinemas in 2013, compared to 1.59 million two years’ prior.

However, as the number of multiplex and top-price VIP rises, there remains very few affordable cinema seats in Qatar.

Gulf Cinema

Elysia Windrum

Gulf Cinema

So far, only two cinemas  – Gulf Cinema and West End Park Cinema – which each have two screens each – provide a cheaper movie experience for the hundreds of thousands of low-income workers in Qatar. For a number of months, both were closed for renovations.

Gulf Cinema, Qatar’s oldest standalone movie theater, is located in Najma and closed with no notice in early 2013. The popular haunt was supposed to open by the middle of last year.

This week, operator QCFDC said it would reopen by fall this year after renovations, according to the Gulf Times.

Meanwhile, at least one screen at West End Park cinema reopened earlier this month after it was temporarily closed in January this year following a change of management. The other screen is expected to reopen soon, with two more to follow.

Thoughts?

Note: This article was edited on April 1 after we were advised by Doha Festival City that the number of cinema screens there will be 19, up from the original 15 planned.