Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 9 July 2020

Dubai's Cinema Akil to reopen this weekend: the changes to expect

A number of changes have been made to ensure the safety of the Cinema Akil community

Cinema Akil is gearing up to reopen again this weekend, with a number of measures in place to ensure visitors a safe and worry-free cinema experience.

The cinema’s reopening, which is slated for Friday, June 12, comes two weeks after mainstream movie theatres in Dubai began welcoming visitors again. And once you see the space, you’ll know why the arthouse cinema in Al Quoz took a bit longer to reopen.

Seating arrangements have been altered, half of the sofas in the centre have been removed, and a lion’s share of the chairs have been fitted with a yellow “you can’t sit here” label.

The cinema’s reopening, which is slated for Friday, June 12, comes two weeks after mainstream movie theatres in Dubai opened their doors again. Cinema Akil
'You can't sit with us' blocked seat markers

The carpeting has been pried out to make room for social-distancing stickers and there are numerous hand-sanitising stations fitted throughout the space. You’ll also see prints of cats with masks on the walls, telling visitors to keep their masks on at all times.

Hand sanitizing stations have been set up around the venue. Cinema Akil
Hand sanitising stations have been set up around the venue. Cinema Akil

“We’ve worked hard to make sure that the space feels as safe as possible,” Luz Salem Villamil, deputy director of Cinema Akil, tells The National. “We also made sure that the cinema is as cosy and inviting as it’s always been.”

The cinema closed on March 14, before the government-mandated shutdowns were put in place to combat the coronavirus pandemic.

“There used to be 133 seats at the space before. We’ve reduced the seating capacity to 30 per cent so that it accommodates no more than 35 people," Salem Villamil says, adding that they have also invested in a fogging machine, which they will use to sanitise the seats after every screening.

Opening times have been changed as well. The cinema is now open from Tuesday to Saturday, 6pm to 9pm. For now, the cinema will only have one screening a day and will be kicking off with the film The Trip to Greece.

The 2020 comedy follows Steve Coogan and Rob Brydon as they chart the voyage of the Odysseus, travelling from Troy to Ithaca.

Tickets to Cinema Akil's screenings can now only be purchased online. Cinema Akil
Tickets to Cinema Akil's screenings can now only be purchased online. Cinema Akil

Tickets for the film are already on sale on the Cinema Akil website. Make sure you purchase your tickets online, as tickets will no longer be sold at the box office. Children under 12 and adults over 60 will not be admitted as per the government’s official precautions.

You’ll notice a few other changes at the venue as well. The box office has been fitted with plexiglass to ensure the safety of those on either side. The Project Chaiwala cafe now serves food in individual sealable bags.

There’s no queuing in front of the counter to wait for your food. Instead, your name will be called out once your order is ready. These changes were put in place to maintain the necessary two-metre social-distancing guidelines.

The carpeting has been pried out to make room for social-distancing stickers. Cinema Akil
The carpeting has been pried out to make room for social-distancing stickers. Cinema Akil

Though Cinema Akil is only now reopening, the arthouse cinema has been far from dormant during the pandemic.

It partnered with online streaming service Mubi, making films available on its dedicated page on the Mubi website. Visitors can view the titles on desktop and can also watch the films offline on iOS and Android devices.

Some of the films Cinema Akil made available include 3 Idiots (2009) a coming-of-age comedy by Indian director Rajkumar Hirani; Japanese romantic drama Journey to the Shore (2013) by Kiyoshi Kurosawa, which centres on a piano teacher encountering the ghost of her dead husband; and Ilo Ilo (2013), a Singaporean family drama directed by Anthony Chen.

Also, on April 29, the cinema launched a virtual club, CineTalks, which selects a film every week from the cinema’s watchlist or its Mubi partnership before hosting online discussions.

The talks are held by facilitators who lead the discussion with a limited number of participants. Users will have to sign up ahead of each talk to get one of 15 slots on the weekly Zoom meeting. However, if you don't make the cut, don’t worry, the talks are streamed live on Cinema Akil’s YouTube page and are streamable after the fact.

“CineTalks has been a wonderful experience,” Salem Villamil says. “It helped us reconnect with our audience in a new way and we’re aiming to continue even after the reopening.”

Updated: June 10, 2020 11:52 AM

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