Cairo had the capacity to foster all of this technology while providing simpler, more down-to-earth venues. Downtown Cairo alone used to host over 30 cinemas, some were regular indoor cinemas and others were outdoor, open air cinemas also referred to as sinema seify (summer cinemas). Open-air cinemas were en vogue at the time when summer was guaranteed to be summer before air conditioners and exhaust pipes helped dig a hole in the ozone layer. Open-air cinemas were ideal for re-runs of double bills; some even went up to three films all in one program (usually a local film sandwiched between two foreign ones).
I remember a cinema named Paradie, long before Giuseppe Tornatore's masterpiece Cinema Paradiso (1989) was made, located on the same street on which I used to live. It had a garden attached for children to play while parents peacefully enjoyed the show. The Karnak open-air cinema was only a few yards away where, from my balcony, I could see the audience having a great time. Those living in buildings overlooking the cinema screen were lucky enough to enjoy free shows every night. I, on the other hand, had to satisfy my curiosity each week with each new double bill by buying my own tickets. After each visit to the Karnak, I would spend the following days listening to the soundtrack of the film shown. Usually, by the third night I could tell what was showing on the screen at any point without seeing a single frame.
Once summer was over, and the bamboo seats were removed for renovation and repainting, these cinemas were either closed down till the next summer or were converted into roller skating rinks (all the rage back in the day) for the winter season where boys went to meet girls.
Multiplex cinemas are now vastly popular, particularly in malls where they are deliberately situated on top floors so that, on the way up on the escalators, you have no choice but to pass by as many temptations as possible framed by shop windows along the way. Once you reach your destination and settle down (with a Coke in one hand and an oversized popcorn cup in the other) you are at the mercy of an endless stream of commercials and movie trailers.
It's odd, what we call progress.
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