Film partnerships News

Dubai’s first art-house cinema to open in Alserkal Avenue on September 28

Butheina Kazim, co-founder and Managing Director of Cinema Akil.

Dubai’s first art-house cinema, Cinema Akil will open on September 28 at Alserkal Avenue with a screening of two regional premieres, Palme d’Or nominee Yomeddine directed by Abu Bakr Shawky and critically-acclaimed documentary film McQueen, about the life and career of fashion designer Alexander McQueen directed by Ian Bonhôte and Peter Ettedgui.

The erstwhile pop-up cinema platform established in 2014 will now have a permanent home at Warehouse 68 in Alserkal Avenue. Cinema Akil will have two daily screenings, one at 7pm followed by a screening at 9.30pm.

Speaking to BroadcastPro ME, Butheina Kazim, co-founder and Managing Director of Cinema Akil said: “Over three years, we have had more than 190 screenings at Alserkal Avenue, apart from other venues in Dubai and Abu Dhabi. Having tested the concept of art-house cinema and seeing the consistent interest in our screenings, we decided to turn a warehouse into a single screen cinema with 125 chairs and screen films every single night.”

Cinema solutions provider and systems integrator, CineTech supplied and installed the cinema equipment.  Outlining the solutions provided, Peter Khamas, Managing Director of CineTech DMCC, said: “We deployed Barco Projection, QSC 7.1 surround Audio and Harkness screen at Cinema Akil.”

Once the civil contractor completed the required works, Cinetech took five days to deliver, test and commission for the single screen. Commenting on the client’s brief, Khamas said: “The client requested us to provide the latest technology and to meet current world cinema standards. The main challenge was the acoustics of the location, considering it was a warehouse, but we are happy with the final audio quality.”

“We believe this project will play a vital role in the region’s cinema industry. We have been working with Butheina since the start and we share the same passion for cinema,” he added.

Underscoring the commitment to quality, Butheina, an Emirati and self-confessed film lover said: “CineTech is a leading technology provider. They have previously worked with VOX and Reel cinemas, among other brands. We did not want to compromise on quality and this where most of our money acquired through painstaking fund-raising projects, was spent.”

Throwing light on the process of sourcing films, Butheina said: “Dubai-based distributor and content aggregator, Front Row Filmed Entertainment is a key partner. They are not just the biggest art-house cinema distributor in the region, but they also work with a lot of regional titles.”

Apart from ticket sales, Butheina said Cinema Akil is open to corporate sponsorships and events towards offsetting the cost of screening films.

Describing Cinema Akil as a “365-day film festival” Butheina believes the permanent home at Alserkal will be a proof of concept for the single-screen art-house sector in the region. Stressing that Cinema Akil will complement and not compete with multiplexes, she said: “Multiplexes are an important part of the ecosystem. We believe an independent cinema platform such as Cinema Akil is there to enable little-known films get wider releases. We want to work hand in hand with multiplexes and be that first entry for independent cinema.”

Significantly Cinema Akil will be a platform for regional filmmakers to find audiences as well as hone their skills through workshops, stressed Butheina.

Having started her career with the Arab Media Group in 2008 to set up a channel for art house cinema similar to the TV network Arte France, she states that Cinema Akil will be open to collaborate with broadcasters on free-to-air and pay-tv platforms as well as VOD platforms.

The eclectic films on offer following the opening day are the 1969 film The Color of Pomegranates, directed by Sergei Parajanov, Matteo Garrone’s  Dogman and Pilippe Van Leeuw’s war drama In Syria, among others.

On the kind of films that would make the cut, Butheina said: “There are different ways to connect to films. A film should essentially be a consciousness-raising experience, from the artistic, narration or technical points of view.”

In addition to the cinema space, Cinema Akil will house Project Chaiwala, a homegrown tea concept in the UAE which will be open for all day dining inside the cinema. Cinema Akil will operate daily from 4pm onwards. Tickets are only available at the cinema for purchase from September 28 onwards.