Seaside Screen Brings Magic of Movies to Gaza Years after Cinemas Closed

Palestinian families watch movie at a beachfront cafe during a rare cinema event in Gaza City on Aug. 11.

GAZA (Reuters) — With car tires, rocks and mounds of sand as seats, Palestinians of all ages have been enjoying a rare trip to the movies at a big-screen event on the Gaza beachfront.

The open-air show — with a playlist including the animated children’s comedy “Ferdinand” — was for many viewers a first experience of a projected film since the impoverished enclave’s last cinema closed more than three decades ago.

Hosted by “The Sea is Ours” cafe, the screenings were designed to promote issues of culture and history approved by the conservative Islamist Hamas government.

They left some in the audience longing for more.

“I hope one day there will be a cinema, so I can go to the cinema and eat popcorn,” said 13-year-old Mohammad Zidan as other children lolled in the sand, giggling at the cartoon.

Cinema once flourished in Gaza, with Palestinians flocking to see Arab, Western and Asian films, but the movie houses were torched in the First Intifada in 1987 and then burned down again in 1996 during a wave of internal violence.

The last cinema, long abandoned, is now a haven for bats.

While Gazans have been able to go to movie screenings, which are held from time to time at theaters and other venues, such a full bill of films, being shown over several weeks at the venue, is a rare treat.

“We can get movies on mobile phones, but this is something new and is nice,” said 15-year-old Hadeel Hejji.

Ali Mhana, 35, the cafe owner and local playwright, said he had never been to a regular cinema.

“At the sea, you don’t need to look for an audience, the sea has its own. People are here all the time, including children, who get attracted by the sound and image and come to watch the movies,” Mhana said.