x Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 24 July 2017

At last - wall to wall movies

Home theatre? Not unless you've got a digital projector and a blank white wall to serve as the next best thing to a silver screen.

A new cinema has just opened in Abu Dhabi, but you probably haven't read about it in the paper until this moment. Nor will you have spotted a box office, flashing neon lights, show times or ushers as you walk past it on the street. Anyone who has been to a screening, however, will tell you that what it lacks in razzle-dazzle it more than makes up for in quality programming. From regular showings of the latest indie hits, to next week's extensive spaghetti western programme, there is rarely a dud film playing.

Where is this cinephile's paradise you ask? It's in my flat. That's right, my living room has become the capital's newest movie theatre, thanks to the wonders of digital projecting. It doesn't have as many seats as the CineStar in Marina Mall, and there's only one flavour of popcorn. But, thanks to the expertise of the programmer (yours truly), every screening is a bona fide classic. Setting it up was a doddle. All I needed were a digital projector and a shelf to put it on. A morning trip to the mall solved that (although I did have to pay a carpenter to take care of the shelving). Then I took my flatmate's framed holiday snaps down from the opposite wall and, hey presto!

There is more to running a home cinema than having the right hardware, though. Getting access to anything other than the biggest blockbusters on DVD can be a struggle in the UAE. But, as every discerning expatriate knows, the box set is king. Whether your thing is racing through every season of 24, or poring over each of Werner Herzog's collaborations with Klaus Kinski, a multi-disc collection is rarely more than two weeks away by post.

Some complain that projectors are impractical - not only do you need a flat, white wall, but the image dulls if daylight creeps in. Luckily, my walls are blemish-free, and I have not yet begun watching films at breakfast time (although I am considering it). Deciding what to show for my first screening was tough. Few films are visually more stunning than Blade Runner, but perhaps the mysterious Hitchcock masterpiece Vertigo would be a better choice for opening night? Neither. The Big Lebowski tempted me as it so often does, and before I knew it, Jeff Bridges's hairy face had filled the wall. "The Dude abides."

Owners of widescreen televisions may call their set-up a "home cinema", but it is nothing of the sort. Sure, size isn't everything in life, but when it comes to comparing your TV to a cinema, you had better be able to back up your claim.