‘Cinema Akil in 25hours is more than just a cinema; it’s a vibrant hub where film and culture converge, reflecting the dynamic spirit of Dubai,’ says the poised Boutheina Kazim, as she addresses guests inside the red-lit cocoon that is Cinema Akil in 25hours Hotel Dubai One Central. The partnership has been years in the making, but now, it’s finally here, cementing the collaboration between two of the city’s coolest outposts, and adding to the cultural, artsy and soulful side of Dubai.
Born in 2014 as a nomadic cinema, before opening in Dubai’s Alserkal Avenue, Cinema Akil is the brainchild of Boutheina, bringing arthouse cinema, though-provoking shorts, powerful independent movies and blockbuster favourites to the city. The spirit of old cinema can be felt in its original outpost, with its sumptuous red decor, Rococo wallpaper, along with the spirit of new Dubai and the Arab world – creating a strong sense of community. Across town, 25hours Hotel One Central embodies this same message, with a motto of ‘come as you are’, collaborations, entrenchment in the community, creatives and bringing the spirit of Berlin, Paris or Beirut to Dubai.
Now, visitors – both hotel guests and external visitors – can enjoy the long-awaited partnership coming to fruition, with Cinema Akil in 25hours – a new permanent addition to the hotel’s grounds. The cinema lies just off the entrance in its own little Cinema Akil world, and guests enter into a sultry, red-hued maze of rooms complete with quirky vintage items, vintage movie posters, rocking ‘conversation benches’ and a station serving popcorn and drinks. The cinema seating itself is covered, providing the perfect acoustics, and guests sit on ergonomic, slightly reclined sears – optimised for viewing and in the cinema’s signature bold red.
’25hours was inspired by the idea of the hakawati character, and something very present across the hotel,’ continued Boutheina, in a short movie on the making of the collaboration. ‘The cinema, being independent, but a friendly neighbour, an extension, had to have some sort of relationship to that. So wanted authentic objects that came from a place that had a relationship to the city, its story, its trade relationships and its history, and there was nowhere like India. We worked with an incredible designer to select every single piece, object, figure and poster that would go into those bookshelves – there are over 1,100 pieces.’
Eyes are also instantly drawn to the seating, merging vintage cinematic pieces with contemporary designs and the avant-garde. ‘There are three types of seating,’ explains Boutheina, ‘The first are old cinema chairs we picked up in Italy, the second are the reclining cinema bench-like seats and the third conversation seats – based on the communal component of cinema – called the conversation benches’. These benches feature two rocking chairs with two seats facing the opposite direction so people end up facing each other for a conversation. ‘We loved that idea or creating conversation,’ adds Butheina.
25hours in Cinema Akil also has an eye-catching new logo to match its new era. ‘One thing we’ve always been proud of at Cinema Akil is the presence of Arabic in our logo, it’s not just a translation it’s what we are and what people remember us for – it’s the most visible and loudest component visually,’ says Butheina.
As for the rest of the den, red scaffolding features throughout – a nod to the cinema’s flagship colour – and homage is paid to those who spent the summer building the set up through a thoughtful poster, listing their names like movie directors. The cinema’s theatre has seats for 72 people, and 150 can stand across all three zones – spanning the concession area, theatre itself and chameleon-like retail/pop-up space.
The cinema is open daily from 12pm to 10pm allowing guests to look around, feel the creative spirit and enjoy a conversation chair, while screenings will take place four times a week – Tuesdays, Thursdays, Saturdays and Sundays, between 7:30pm and 8:00pm. The venue is set to remain open until May, with new screenings and a programme of events announced each month.
Kicking things off, the debut screening will be the poignant Darin J Sallam-directed film Farha, telling the story of a young Palestinian girl consumed by catastrophe in the 1948 Nakba, before moving on to stirring documentaries The Black Power Mix Tape, Rolling Like Thunder and Summer of Soul. Adding some festive cheer, the classic Christmas blockbuster Home Alone will be screened on 24, 28 and 31 of December.
25hours Hotel Dubai One Central; cinemaakil.com