Equal Partners
by Roland Ezri

Equal Partners by Roland Ezri

Equal Partners

By Roland Ezri

"Women are the backbone of all societies. They do a substantial part of the work, and play a major role in raising the future generation yet they are largely powerless. The decisions that count are made by men and foisted upon women."

Writings by Roland Ezri

The Second Exodus – Egypt – LXXV. My Years at 12A Rue Khantaret Ghamra – Entertainment (1 of 30)

Movies and movie houses

Before the advent of television, movies were the main form of entertainment. They were inexpensive (affordable even to poor people), exciting, and they came from all over the world.

We had cinemas who were either regular (closed) theaters or cinema plein air (outdoor theaters) who opened in the summer only. Multiplexes did not exist (anywhere in the world) in those days.

The regular movie houses were of two kinds: The neighborhood kind which showed old movies (usually two of them), and some sumptuous theaters, all located downtown. These cinemas showed first-run films. Some examples follow.

The Metro was the king of Cairo’s cinemas. It was part of the Metro Goldwyn Mayer chain of cinemas; and, of course, it showed only M.G.M. movies. It was a large auditorium with comfortable seats. Like all theaters, it also had a balcony. The Metro was the first to introduce air-conditioning; in a hot city like Cairo, that alone justified the price of the ticket. And that is exactly how Nisso saw it. Regardless of what was featured, every Saturday morning we went there. Mostly though, the film shown was one of the grandiose and technicolor productions produced by the dream-makers called M.G.M. In time, other cinemas became air conditioned.

Another auditorium that I remember is the Diana. I was still a child when my parents took me there to see Jane Eyre with Orson Welles. The Diana brought some of the superproductions of Cecil B. De Mille, movies such as Samson and Delilah and The Ten Commandments.

The other auditorium that I remember is the Cairo Palace. It featured the first cinemascope movie, The Robe.

The Misr Palace brought mostly Arabic movies. Another auditorium, Nasr, specialized in foreign films: mainly French and Italian, but it was not uncommon for it to have other foreign productions such as German and Spanish. That same theater took a chance and brought an Indian movie. How good could it be? Could it beat Hollywood or an Egyptian production? We were all taken by surprise. It was a grand and technicolor movie, and it included plenty of maudlin scenes (the kind Egyptians adore); finally, the singing and dancing was pure enchantment. We never looked back. A new and profitable market had just opened for (what we call today) Bollywood movies.

American, British and foreign motion pictures had two sets of subtitles: Arabic and French. Many Egyptians were illiterate and could not read the subtitles, therefore, they mostly attended Egyptian movies. They did occasionally go to see an action film even though they didn’t understand what was said!

Popcorn was introduced at a certain point, and it became a popular snack, but it never overtook cracking and eating libb (roasted seeds: Sunflower, pumpkin, melon, watermelon, etc.) . Throughout a movie, you would hear: crack, crack, crack! It became an indispensable background noise to any feature!

A first run motion picture session always opened with Phillips Sousa’s “Stars and Stripes Forever.” This was followed by a Movietone (the latest news); one or two cartoons; perhaps a short, such as the three stooges; previews (we didn’t call them trailers back then) of upcoming movies; a commercial usually about Coke or Pepsi; an intermission; and when you came back, the feature presentation was finally screened.

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