In August 2011, Cinema Jenin, with 335 seats and funding from the German Government, opened its doors to the public in a glamorous gala event that attracted international celebrities like Roger Waters and Bianca Jagger (they showed a movie called The Heart of Jenin about Israeli cruelty in the wake of an explosion that took out a Netanya hotel on the seder night). On Wednesday this week it closed down after running out of money.
According to AFP, demolition work has begun on the Cinema Jenin building, after the management team had failed to attract enough customers to allow it to continue operations. German director Marcus Vetter told AFP “it is a very disappointing and sad moment,” revealing that the original owners’ heirs had sold the place for $1.8 million.
The Cinema Jenin website related the heartwarming story of cooperation between the management team and a group of young and old people from Jenin who were going to receive technical training to run the cinema eventually. Cinema Jenin also offered film and theatre workshops, supported by “local and international partners” to get more people involved in the cinema.
And just to be able to pay the rent, Cinema Jenin also planned to become a venue for local plays, concerts, and even weddings.
Vetter told AFP the failure was due to a mix of local conservative attitudes and a fear that attending shows there would be tantamount to accepting Israeli “occupation.” “People were not ready to really go there. They were also maybe a little bit scared how it would be perceived if they go,” he explained.
According to news reports of the time, many locals boycotted the cinema because unmarried men and women drank alcohol and even slept together in the guest house that was attached to Cinema Jenin. In 2011 death threats were circulated in Jenin mosques, and many foreign nationals were ordered to stay off the Cinema Jenin project at the request of their governments.