Weep, oh beloved cinemas!

Haven’t we always said that “when we love life we ​​go to the cinema”? But the fact is that today we no longer love life enough or that we have other occupations that no longer leave us time to take pleasure in these famous dark rooms…

It should also be said that these “poor” movie theaters have experienced such degradation that the only consequence has been their disappearance, not completely, fortunately, but all the same, this has had many effects on this fact of going to the cinema.
There is also this digital invasion that has created a kind of laziness in even the most hardened moviegoers. Some claim the decadence of the cinemas and the service provided there, others the quality of the public, like the cheap films that have invaded the cinemas, and some the scarcity of films that deserve the trip. A trip that could not be described as such in the past in Casablanca, for example, which had the largest number of cinemas. On the other hand, the city was full of what can be called neighborhood or local cinemas. Far from being small rooms, they were real cinemas. Movie theaters fallen from above and disappeared, of which here is the story…
In the various corners of the economic capital, today there are, for the most part, only vestiges of prestigious cinemas, which no longer exist. Some buildings, as if to safeguard the cinematographic memory of Casablanca, recall the golden age of this 7th art, today itself in pain. These remnants of what were cinemas, closed for a long time, accentuate the nostalgia of many moviegoers who remember, at each passage, the good old days. When, elsewhere, these cinemas were demolished, the case of the Anfa cinema in Hay Hassani, the Riviera in Beauséjour or the Triomphe in the city center, or even all these cinemas which made rue de Jura in Mâarif, the rue des cinemas in this case the Rex, the Familia, the Monté Carlo and the Mondial which no longer exist…

These rooms today memories…
Cinemas, in Morocco and especially in Casablanca and in addition to their mission as places of entertainment and culture also had, for the most part, this particularity of being real architectural works of art and which, in addition to the projection of films, also served theater where many universal works have been performed and many stars have appeared. The case of the Rialto cinema (ex-Splendid) whose capacity was 1,350 spectators, which had hosted a recital by the divine Josephine Baker on April 13, 1943, with American officers as spectators. The Rialto, which is the work of Pierre Jabin, was built in 1930 and completely closed in the 2000s. Just opposite, on the same street, another cinema-theatre room is still struggling and struggling to get its head out of the water, the Ritz whose garden space has always been an oasis in the heart of the city.
Still in the center, and on Boulevard Mohammed V, two rooms suffered the same fate but escaped destruction, the ABC and the Empire are still there but closed. The Empire, whose history dates back to the 1920s. Indeed, it was in 1927 that the Italian Aldo Manassi created the Empire cinema, which is representative of the history of cinemas in Casablanca. Its construction was part of the modernization of the city and the new era of the 7th art in Casablanca. A cinematographic hall, the Empire has nevertheless been equipped with backstage and dressing rooms to accommodate live performances. Organized in two levels, orchestra and balcony, the hall has a total of 800 seats. Initially planned as a ground floor, the Empire was subsequently raised by three floors and became a real building, supplemented by a fourth level. Its facade is in the decorative arts style with colonnade, capital, projections and balconies. The interior is more sober and refined with many art deco details.

Closed or destroyed…
Rooms, there were so many and everywhere that the viewer was spoiled for choice. Once in town and faced with a myriad of cinemas, we begin to wonder: what to choose and which film to opt for? Especially since the competition in the quality of the programming was fierce… The Liberté cinema built by Albert Planque in 1954 or the Rif, renovated by Domenico Basciano in 1958 after the restoration of the Opera and the modernization of the Atlas in 1950 Or go to Boulevard Lalla Yacout and opt for the Lux cinema (which no longer exists today) which was also redone by this same Basciano in 1968, just like the Coliseum in 1969. Domenico Basciano remains however known for having directed and created a work of art, even his greatest masterpiece, located on avenue Mers Sultan and which is the Lynx cinema distinguished by its harmonious corrugated and suspended ceiling. Against all odds and struggling to survive, some rooms are still there but very tired, such as the Arc, on boulevard Ziraoui and the Lutetia on rue Tata. In addition to the quartet of the rue du Jura, quoted above, the list of the missing includes the Medina and the Imperial in the medina of Casablanca, the Chaouia, on the road to Médiouna, the Mauritania, the Riad, but above all the incredible work of Marius Boyer, marked by its opening roof, the Vox cinema, a real monument inaugurated in 1935 and which was the largest cinema in Africa. In addition to the masterpieces that have been screened there, we remember that Marcel Cerdan had boxed there in a ring set up on stage for the occasion. The Vox also had four floors and therefore four balconies. And the higher the balcony, the cheaper the place. We also remember that the behemoth of cinemas in Casablanca was demolished in the 1970s, due to numerous real estate speculations.
It must be said that this problem of closing or demolishing cinemas does not only concern Casablanca, but most cities where there are closed cinemas, which have become abandoned spaces or transformed into shopping centers in particular. Only, in the economic capital, it is obvious because the city had a very large number of cinemas in the past, commonly invaded by film lovers who came to admire masterpieces of all nationalities and these cinemas are now suffering , the transgressions of both nature and man. A transgression that we see wherever we are from these closed cinemas, such as Saada and Farah in Hay Mohammadi, Al-Massira in the Adil district, Royal, Mauritania and Zahra and Sheherazad in Derb Sultan, Sahara in Ain Chock and Al-Baida at Avenue Mohammed VI.

A romantic love story
On the other hand, between the city and the cinema, was born, since 1914, (birth of the first rooms in the medina), a love story that became passionate from 1942 when Michaël Curtiz was going to immortalize the name of the city, by his cult film starring Humphrey Bogart and Ingrid Bergman. In this film which will make known the city “Casablanca” across the Atlantic, it is not physically present and no scene of the film was shot there, but the director chose it because it was the ideal place to illustrating the conflicts and intrigues that littered the paths of European refugees of the Second World War era. And it was spectacular love at first sight Casablanca was not the only one to seduce Hollywood, because since then, the cinema has also courted then seduced Casablanca. Hence the proliferation of rooms in all corners of the city with in the center the ABC, the Colosseum, the Empire, the Lynx, the Rif, the Triumph, Lutetia, Liberty, the Opera, Rialto, Ritz, the ‘Eden Club and Vox. In Maarif, there were Monte-Carlo, Mondial and Rex. At the Roches-noires, Le Moulin. In Burgundy, Arc and Victoria. In Beauséjour, Riviera and in the Gironde near the station, the Olympia. And the list is still long…

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