During the 19th Mediterranean Games in Oran, the former Capitole cinema (renamed Soumman) reopened its doors after more than 30 years.
Like the Olympic Games, the Mediterranean Games is a sporting event held once every four years, but only for countries around the Mediterranean basin. This year the games were held in and around Oran from June 25th to July 5th. They were also an opportunity to present a cultural programme, with particular emphasis on cinema, with 45 films being screened in partnership with the Centre national du cinéma algérien.
During those 11 days the Soumman cinema in Aïn Témouchent, not far from Oran, hosted 3 screenings per day. In the programme were films about the Algerian war, such as Gilo Pontecorvo’s The Battle of Algiers and Ammar Laskri’s Patrouille à l’Est. Djaafar Kassem’s Héliopolis, presented at the 2021 Oscars, was also shown.
Having been closed for many years, restoration of the cinema required a lot of work, from replacing technical equipment to the renovation of the building. The angle of the seating was adjusted to allow better visibility, dressing rooms and a backstage area were installed so the cinema can be used as a concert hall or theatre.
When the Games were over, a journalist from El Watan speculated on the cinema’s future, outlining the various possibilities. “There are two options for the cinema’s future: either making it part of the [state-run] cinematheque or Algerian Centre for Cinema Development, or alternatively leasing it to a private operator […]”. But, he says, these decisions are political.