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.
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.
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.
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.