Reg. Trib. Milano n. 418 del 02.07.2007 - Direttore responsabile: Elisabetta Brunella

International Edition No. 206 - year 18 - 31 January 2023

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Dear Readers,

Elisabetta Brunella this issue contains a new episode in our Focus series, which offers a brief overall view of cinemagoing on the European markets and in the rest of the world.
This time it is the turn of Morocco, a country characterised amongst other things by an important heritage of great cinemas, which bear witness both to the architectural trends of the Twentieth Century and to the now inexistent demand to host the greatest possible number of spectators in a single auditorium. In many cases these cinemas reveal both a merit and a disadvantage: they have remained immune to the restructuring carried out in other territories in order to obtain several small or medium-sized auditoriums, more suited to today’s programming and viewing styles.
The question inevitably arises as to the fate of these buildings, partly provoked by the work of François Beaurain, the French photographer who has produced a body of images not only of undoubted aesthetic value but also of historical and cultural importance, commented on by our correspondent.
What sort of future can be imagined for these theatres on a scenario that sees cinema on the big screen facing hard trials due to changes in viewing habits, lately accelerated by the pandemic?
e leave you with this reflection and wish you enjoyable reading,

Elisabetta Brunella
Secretary General of MEDIA Salles



Key figures

With its over 33 million inhabitants, Morocco is one of the leading African cinema markets, in terms both of production and screens. Together with South Africa, Egypt, Nigeria and Ethiopia, it is part of the group of five countries where, according to the UNESCO, over 70% of existing screens were situated in 2021. The remaining 30% - around 500 theatres - were scattered throughout the Continent’s other fifty or so States.
And yet, as the following statistics elaborated by the Centre Cinématographique Marocain reveal, in Morocco, too, the number of movie theatres and screens is dropping and these are now concentrated mainly in the biggest cities.

In 2021, a year still in the grip of Covid, there were 78 screens in 31 cinemas. But 9 screens had not been in operation.
Amongst the causes of this erosion a lack of technological updating cannot be counted, since almost 94% of the screens recorded by the Centre are equipped with digital projectors.

Faced not only with increasing cinema closures, but also with the threat of buildings of great historical and architectural interest being pulled down, voices of concern are being raised in Morocco and abroad. Amongst the foremost initiatives, besides the François Beaurain work documented in this issue of DGT, was the important programme devoted to this in January by the RAI in Italy.

As to the exhibitors themselves, a noteworthy attempt, launched in May 2022 by the RIF in Tangiers, is being made to create synergy with the Renaissance cinema in Rabat, the Colisée cinema and the movie theatre of the Ecole supérieure des arts visuels in Marrakech, thanks also to support from the programmes “Cultural Relations Platform” and “Support to EU Film Festivals” financed by the European Union.

Source for EURO currency exchange rate: Banca d'Italia (rates refer to the last day of the year).

Admissions and gross box office revenus: open air cinemas included

In the following table we present the market shares obtained each year by U.S., Moroccan and French films, which are those most widely viewed in the country. In some years French productions did not, however, come in third place: this is indicated in the note, adding the nationality of those that came in third place

1) In 2013, in the third place usually occupied by France, comes Egypt, with 5 % of GBO
2) in 2016, in the third place usually occupied by France, comes India, with 4 % of GBO

2020: screens operating from 1 January to 16 March
2021: screens operating from 15 June to 31 December

Source: CCM - Centre Cinématographique Marocain


The film image of Casablanca
by Elisabetta Galeffi

The first time I went to Casablanca, it was in the grip of an irresistible impulse to see where they had shot Michael Curtiz’s film with Humphrey Bogart, Ingrid Bergman and Dooley Wilson “as Sam”: CASABLANCA.

I admit that I was in the vicinity of the Moroccan city and didn’t know yet, that the film had been shot near Los Angeles on a set in Burbank, the world’s media capital. Cinema buffs thrive on fantasy.

Old Casablanca, the Art Déco neighbourhood, with a rather unsavoury reputation at the time of my visit, around twenty years ago, had some splendid but dilapidated buildings which, in the evening, housed night clubs, semi-concealed places in dimly lit back streets, to be found after dark thanks to dated neon signs. The one over my hotel was an intermittent green light, illuminating first the word “night” and then the word “club”. I would place the blame for this stay on a famous French tourist guide, yet this was how I discovered the real atmosphere of the film: my hotel would still be a suitable place for smugglers and spies, like Rick’s Café at the time of Vichy’s filo-Nazi régime in the city. The only drawback was that you didn’t hear the notes of “As Time Goes By” and Sam’s splendid voice on entering the hall.

The charm of cinemas from the past

Just a few steps away, however, was the most elegant witness to the city’s colonial past, the “Cinéma Rialto”, which offered a stage for the great artists of the time, such as Joséphine Baker. A place where Churchill and the American allies, too, would have spent a few hours of leisure during the historical conference in Casablanca in 1943. It seems that this very meeting of politicians at the conclusion of the allied landings in North Africa, served as the necessary publicity to make the city of Casablanca known to the American public and help the film to become a theatrical success.

The Cinéma Rialto, with 1,350 seats and the interior restored without losing the charm of the old auditorium as I saw it, has been closed since a year and is now for sale. I can recognize it in the two large photos on show in the photographic exhibition organized by the photographer François Beaurain, in Marrakech, in the Guéliz neighbourhood, in rue Tariq Bnou Ziad.

The exhibition brings together at least 30 photographs of cinemas in Morocco.

After its closure and a tour in the main towns of the country (Rabat, Casablanca, Fès, and Agadir) it remains documented in the book of photographs bearing the same title “Cinémas du Maroc”.

The author of these images toured the whole country in search of the cinemas that existed before the advent of the multiplex, discovering that those in Morocco were very beautiful and their exotic charm remained intact, although many, unlike the Cinéma Rialto, are in a state of extreme dilapidation.

According to the figures released by the Centre Cinématographique Marocain, there has been a sharp drop in the number of cinemas operating in Morocco. Only a few years ago, at the end of 2003, 160 screens were in operation, whilst today only half of them.

The Moroccan society of the big cities, which inherited its passion for the cinema from the French colonialists, loved the big screen. The multiplexes, which arrived here, too, are no longer being built due to lack of audiences. Another piece of information necessary for grasping the crisis of cinemas in Morocco is that the latter only exist in big cities now, such as Casablanca, Marrakech, Tangiers. Nevertheless, the old cinemas here, as Beaurain’s photos demonstrate, have not been converted into restaurants or chain stores, as has frequently happened in Europe, but have continued to conserve the splendour of their times.

Dating from 1952 and designed by the architect Georges Peynet, designer of famous Parisian theatres, is the Cinéma Colisée, again in Guéliz, Marrakech: this is a theatre housed in an apartment building. A special place indeed: cinema at home, at least for some people, and still operating.

François Beaurain’s photos bear witness to the nostalgia for what movie theatres represented in the lifestyle of the 1900s, but not only. They have also been taken in the hope that these very special places will not disappear and that, like the cinema in general, will be born anew and crowded with spectators. In the preface to his book, the photographer expresses his hope that the movie theatres “will emerge from the darkness that has fallen on them”. The cinema, the seventh art, the art of the modern age, was born in these places and thanks to them saw its audiences grow. The cinema is inextricably bound to them.

François Beaurain's warning cry for Morocco's movie theatres at the time of the pandemic

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Edito da: MEDIA Salles - Reg. Trib.
Milano n. 418 dello 02/07/2007
Direttore responsabile:
Elisabetta Brunella
Coordinamento redazionale:
Silvia Mancini
Alice Randazzo  
Raccolta dati ed elaborazioni statistiche: Paola Bensi, Silvia Mancini