The global Covid-19 health crisis has dealt the final blow to cinemas in Morocco, with cinemas not being allowed to reopen after more than a year of closure.
“There’s no longer any hope. “Cinema is dead,” says Rabi Derraj, the caretaker of “Al Malaki” (“The Royal”), one of Casablanca’s most iconic theatres, which, like so many other examples of Moroccan architectural heritage, has been wrecked by time and oblivion.
“It is unfortunate! We don’t consider the historical significance of this cinema “Mr Derraj, the place’s 20-year caretaker, expressed his dissatisfaction.
Cinemas dedicated to Moroccans were erected in the 1940s after the first ones built by French colonists. The above mentioned was the golden age, before the decadence of the 1990s.
“Cinema was a passion for Moroccans. Then came television, VHS tapes, and now streaming, which killed that love,” laments François Beaurain, a French photographer who chronicled this “unique heritage” in his book “Cinemas of Morocco,” an illustrated bible published last December.
“A nameless drama! Unfortunately, the new generations do not know the value of cinema,” he laments.
In a country with only 27 functioning cinemas, a few rare historical cinemas remain open despite the demise.
The survival of the few is owed to the efforts of enthusiasts and government funding for film restoration and digitisation, which is nonetheless deemed insufficient by exhibitors.
Mr Belkady admits that despite receiving US$974 797 in aid from the Moroccan Film Centre (CCM), a national agency in charge of the seventh art, “they cannot get by.”
As proof, the operator has been compelled to close two other cinemas in the kingdom’s economic capital since 2020; the ABC built in 1948 and the Ritz (1950).