The Khorfakkan Cinema
A forgotten cinema in Khorfakkan awaits its next scene as a future film school.
The Khorfakkan Cinema on the eastern coast of Sharjah opened its doors to the community for the first time in 1978. The lot on which it stands until today had previously been the site of another cinema; a simpler model, without a roof or cooling system that projected films beneath the stars onto a white washed concrete wall.
The new building featured a frieze across its façade on which a dhow sailed by, a camel paused by a ghawah coffee pot and a desert gazelle looked on between a date palm and a pair of traditional tents.
Closed since 2006 the cinema an architectural relic to a bygone era, has recently been acquired by the Sharjah Art Foundation which plans to preserve it. “We would like to turn this building into a working cinema and film school, which is very suited to the local community” says Sheika Hoor Al Qassimi, SAF’s founder and president. “Khor Fakkan is a big theatre town and many local actors come from there.”
Azar Al Haq arrived in Khorfakkan in 1976 as a member of the cinema’s construction team. Making a good impression as a diligent worker when the job was done and the facility opened he became a security guard at the cinema’s gate, then a ticket salesman, then the cinema’s manager and when it closed for good in 2006, its watchman. “When I arrived to Khorfakkan I was a young man, I had seen one or two movies” say Al Haq over a tea on the building’s rooftop where the surrounding mountain range dramatically cuts into the sky. “Today maybe I have seen maybe more films then anyone. It was a good duty.”
Al Haq reminisced about the cinema in its heyday, as he walked through the abandoned building into which seeped beams of afternoon light through holes in the ceiling. Occasionally the silence beaten away by the wings of a startled resident bird.
The facility had featured an impressive 70mm cinemascope screen and the capacity to hold an audience of a thousand people. Male viewers watched from the first class ground level seats which cost seven dirhams a person. Separate entry doors were designated for families and women who watched from one of the cinema’s two balconies. The lobby snack bar offered tea, sandwiches and a selection of dried seeds including salted sweet melon and pumpkin.
One film was shown twice every day at 6:30 and 9:30. Audiences delighted in Arabic movies from Egypt, Bollywood and Bengali films from India, English language films from Hollywood and pictures from Lebanon and Iran. Subtitles were provided in English and Arabic and viewers arrived to showings on foot, by bicycle and taxi from surrounding areas.
Al Haq recalled the rumored 400,000 dirham price paid by the cinema’s owner, Mr. Abdullah Mohammed Akran, during construction for a central air conditioning system. An impressive figure that proved memorable as it pertained to a rare amenity in 1978. As SAF prepares its renovation plans this beautiful yet dilapidated vestige to Khorfakkan’s recent past, waits from the script of its next scene.