Sunday, July 11, 2010

Letters from Egypt: Box Office 101

In the mood for a movie? Egypt provides you with an experience like none other. Don’t like those pesky cell phone interruptions? Never fear, you’ll become accustomed to them before long. Never thought you’d hear someone have a full on conversation while watching a box office hit? Guess what, Egypt will definitely provide you with that as well. Have a nicotine craving? You will be taken care of. Oh, and have you always wanted to smell a can of tuna being opened during the cinema presentation? I can guarantee if you hold out long enough, it too can happen for you.

There are various movie theaters in Cairo, some only catering to Arabic films while many – if not most  - provide you with the hits that all your friends back home saw a month or two ago.

City Stars is the whopper of all malls in Egypt, newly built and located in Nasr City. It has three movie theaters with one even boasting of servers and lounge seating. I mostly go to the theater located on the 5th floor usually accompanied by the best Mexican food in Cairo (which is still only sub-par, but remember, you must lower your expectations to some extent), El Chico – which is conveniently placed right by the cinema.

This weekend I went with the girls to eat Mexican food and watch a movie. I expected to see Prince of Persia because while I’d tried to find out in various ways when Eclipse was out, I couldn’t get a direct response. To my shock, it happened to be out and on Friday, I got my fix of Mexican and my dreams were once again renewed with visions of Edward and Jacob fighting over me. I told you, I do have some geek tendencies – Let. It. Go.

We go get our tickets only to be informed that while the show is at 4 pm and we’re at the ticket office at 2 pm, we can’t purchase them until 2:30. Ma3lesh – time to eat. Then we go and get our tickets only to wait in some horrific line to remotely get inside the concession area to venture to our screen. Of course, it wasn’t really a line since that is too advanced for Egypt and more like a clusterf*ck of people trying to shove their way in despite the locked door. Stampede anyone? Not to mention we were in the wrong line.

We get settled in our seats, watch a few previews and then get ready for my Edward/Jacob love fest. At which time one of the three girls seated directly in front of us decides she will just get up and stand instead of remaining seated. Perhaps it made the movie better for her. Next thing you know, I get a big whiff of something that is definitely not pleasing to my nose. I turn to Lena and said, “WTF is that smell?” To which she replied, “Tuna.” In front of us, the group had apparently gotten hungry and thought tuna went alongside the Twilight Saga like pork and beans. Once the tuna was finished, then another horrendous smell crept into my nose – cover-up…as in covering up the smell of tuna with cheap, rank perfume that smelled something similar to urine. Needless to say, the two smells combined are not something that I hope to endure again in the near future.

Another thing you should be prepared for should you want to watch a movie in Egypt is that in the middle of the movie, no matter how dramatic the part may be, the screen goes blank and all of the sudden you have about a three to four minute smoke break out in the concession area. I kid you not. Now, while I’m a smoker and have grown accustomed to this, I have to say that the first time I experienced it – I was in complete disbelief.

Throughout the entire movie you will notice that no one has manners. I’m uncertain if it is just protocol, but everyone talks very loudly and phones are constantly ringing. Instead of silencing the phones, they let them ring for a bit and then finally decide to answer. At which time, they hold a full conversation IN THE THEATER DURING THE MOVIE. And if you ask them to please stop, they look at you as though YOU’RE CRAZY.

Something else you should get used to is that 9 times out of 10, parts will be taken out of certain movies based on censorship. For instance, one of the first movies I watched here was a political movie depicting MidEast terrorists (like that hasn’t been played out already) and right when the debate came upon the Q’aran, the Muslim’s stance on certain passages was kept in while Brad Pitt’s retaliation over the verse was immediately cut.

All in all, going to the cinema here is just one of the many stories you’ll accumulate. I mean, I grew up always hoping to have a story in my collection that included tuna and urine-esque cover-up.

Some Cairo Cinema Pointers:
  •  I find the two best cinemas are Galaxy in El Manial and City Stars
  • Taking a cab from Maadi to City Stars is no more than 25LE and Autostrad is usually the quickest. If you take a cab via the daety (ring road), meter is going to be way more expensive because it’s longer distance but usually moves fast.
  • Taking a cab from Maadi via the Corniche to El Manial is about 18LE via a metered cab, even in traffic.
  • City Stars movies cost 30-35LE
  •  For movies showing and theaters, you may check on Yallabina or call 2121
  •  And bring your big girl panties full of patience because no one here has been taught the Cinema Proper Code of Conduct
Entertaining:

When I first arrived in Cairo, a law had passed that required all cigarette packages to have a picture on them to try and persuade the public to quit smoking. The first picture was of a man hooked up to breathing machines. That was replaced by a child with bellows of second hand smoke surrounding him. Then came the cartoonish picture of a pregnant woman's womb and now, we have progressed to this picture translating to "Smoking may have harmful effects on your marital life" meaning erectile dysfunction. Oh Egypt, you make me chuckle in so many ways.