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Book focuses on history of Bahrain's cinemas...

A BOOK tracing the history of Bahrain's cinemas from the early 1920s will be published later this year.

The 150-page book, by public libraries director Dr Mansoor Sarhan, gives an overview of cinema history in Bahrain and the pioneers involved in its establishment.

The third section of the book looks at the companies and organisations which have supported the film and cinema industry over the years, including the Bahrain Cinema Company, Falcon Cinefoto and Bahrain Cinema Club.

It is filled with black and white and colour photographs of Bahrain's cinemas in times past and other related items.

The Bahraini author has been interested in the history of cinema and film for many years, but became serious about documenting his research about 18 months ago.

He was spurred on to write the book when he gave a lecture on the history of Bahrain's cinema at the beginning of this year.

"On May 2005 I gave a lecture about the history of Bahrain's cinemas at the Al Jazira theatre in Muharraq and they insisted that a book about it should be published," said Dr Sarhan.

He said that the first attempt to open a cinema in Bahrain was in 1922, by Bahraini Mahmood Lal Saati. Mr Saati imported a projector and set up a makeshift cinema at a cottage on the north coast of Manama, said Dr Sarhan.

This 'cinema' attempt was followed by Abdulla Al Zayed and some friends who opened a cinema in Manama, in 1937.

This cinema was more developed than the first one and is classed as the first in the Gulf.

"It had no airconditioning, or heating, so in the winter they used an open-roofed building, with one of the walls as a screen and during the winter they used a hall," said Dr Sarhan.

"In 1939 King Abdul Aziz, the founder of Saudi Arabia, came to Bahrain and with Shaikh Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa visited the cinema.

"Most of the films were in black and white and mostly Egyptian films with some American films. The Tarzan and 'Cowboys and Red Indians' films were very popular."

At that time, the cinema was opposed by the older generation, who thought that it would destroy traditional values.

"Charles Belgrave, an adviser to the government, wrote a book in which he mentioned that the older Bahraini population oppposed the cinema because they thought that young people would gamble and steal to raise money for a cinema ticket," said Dr Sarhan.

However, cinema eventually gained popularity, largely due to the Egyptian films about the Islamic era, which became particularly fashionable at that time.

"The cinema played a great role in those days to let Bahrainis see the culture of other nations - other GCC countries such as Egypt and also European," Dr Sarhan told the GDN.

Dr Sarhan said that in the early 1940s Bapco opened a cinema in Awali for its staff. The cinema moved to a different building in Awali in 1958, but finally closed in 1991.

In the 1950s and 1960s about seven, or eight new cinemas opened in Bahrain, including the Pearl Cinema, Al Hamra Cinema, Al Nasr Cinema and Awal Cinema, all in Manama.

The first cinema to open in Muharraq was Al Jazira Cinema in 1955 and it is still there today.

The first modern-style cinema to open in Bahrain was the Delmon Cinema at the Gosi Complex in 1996, but this has since closed.

The trend for modern style cinemas was continued by the Bahrain Cinema Company, which opened cineplexes at the Seef Mall in 1998 and in Saar in 2000. The independent Dana Cinema opened at the Dana Mall in 2002.

Bahrain Cinema Company agreed earlier this year to open a 20-screen complex at the Bahrain City Centre, Seef District, expected to be completed by December next year.

"Today the cinema is not as important as before, the cinema before was the only way to see films, but now we have TV at home," said Dr Sarhan. "But the social aspect of it is still popular, families and friends go to the cinema together, but it doesn't play the role it did before."



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