Who doesn’t love the cinema? The massive silver screen, the exciting movies, the dark, the smell of popcorn, and … the accessibility? In the past there were plenty of movie theaters throughout Israel’s city centers and local neighborhoods. There were theaters near one’s home, and one could easily and quickly reach them. With the decline of city centers and emergence of shopping malls during the 1990s, city cinemas also declined, to be transformed into multi-screen complexes located within these malls. During the 2000s movie theaters underwent another evolution, turning into multiplex cinemas with dozens of screens, alongside various other forms of commerce – usually near the outskirts or actually outside of the city. A romantic stroll to the movie theater is no longer practical; rather, one must get into the car or board the bus and take a journey to the massive complex.
Let us illustrate this trend using the example of the Gush Dan region. Cinema Industry Association data show that a decade or so ago Tel Aviv had 47 movie screens. Today 18 remain. The demand for the cinema has not disappeared, but it has been redirected by movie theater chains to the outer layers of the metropolis. The cities that now welcome moviegoers are Ramat Gan, Ramat HaSharon, and Rishon LeZion. The country’s first multiplex cinema was built in Ramat HaSharon (at the Glilot Junction), and by 2005 it already had 19 screens, which became 30 within a decade. In Ramat Gan, where the second multiplex cinema was built, the number of screens grew from 8 in 2005 to 17 in 2015. In Rishon LeZion the number of screens increased from 12 to 47, the largest number of screens in an Israeli city. Most of the new theaters are located in the outskirts of these cities (in Ramat HaSharon – Glilot Junction; in Ramat Gan – Ayalon Mall; and on the western edge of Rishon LeZion).
In other cities, too, multiplex cinemas resulted in movie theaters vanishing from the city center. In Haifa the number of screens declined from 29 in 2005 to 23 in 2015. All are concentrated in the multiplex near the Check Post Junction on the outskirts of the city (it should be noted that in 2016 Haifa will again have a movie theater inside the city, when a complex with 17 screens will be opened within a shopping mall). In Jerusalem the opening of two new multiplexes during the past two years – which, in contrast to other cities are actually rather centrally located (Givat Ram and Hebron Road) – increased the number of screens from 16 in 2005 to 29 in 2015.
As to the number of moviegoers, the decrease in number of screens in Tel Aviv resulted, as expected, in a sharp decrease in the number of moviegoers, from about 1.2 million in 2005 to only about 818,000 in 2015. In contrast, in Haifa and Jerusalem the emergence of multiplexes resulted in a significant increase in the number of moviegoers. The opening of Jerusalem’s first multiplex in 2014 sparked an increase in the number of the city’s moviegoers, from some 497,000 in 2013 to about 1.04 million in 2014, and rising further to 1.23 million in 2015.
In sum, it seems the People of the Book are not afraid of a long trek for a good movie.
Source: Cinema Industry Association in Israel