Most of the malls in Dubai have large multi-screen cinemas showing the latest blockbuster films. These are shown in English with Arabic and sometimes French subtitles. You will not find many independent movies, but nearly all mainstream movies make it to Dubai.
New movies come out every Thursday and listings and timings are available in all local newspapers and Time Out Dubai (http://www.timeoutdubai.com). Showings run throughout the day starting at around 10.30 am and continuing until after midnight. The later showings are more popular with some of the morning showings virtually empty.
The major cinemas are as follows. You can check out the movies they are showing and buy tickets online by visiting their websites:
- CineStar, Deira City Center (http://www.cinestarcinemas.com)
- CineStar, Mall of the Emirates (http://www.cinestarcinemas.com)
- CineStar, Mirdif City Centre (http://www.cinestarcinemas.com)
- Grand Cinecity, Al Ghurair City, Deira (http://www.grandcinemas.com)
- Grand Cineplex, Grand Hyatt, Oud Metha (http://www.grandcinemas.com)
- Grand Festival Cinemas, Festival City (http://www.grandcinemas.com)
- Grand Megaplex, Ibn Battuta Mall (http://www.grandcinemas.com)
- Grand Mercato, Mercato Mall (http://www.grandcinemas.com)
- Grand Metroplex, Metropolitan Hotel, Sheikh Zayed Road (http://www.grandcinemas.com)
Whichever cinema you choose, you may encounter some of the following problems.
- The air conditioning in most cinemas is turned up very high meaning you should take a sweater.
- It is common to experience people talking, answering their phones, and changing seats during movies.
- If you are watching a movie which contains dialogue in a foreign language which is subtitled in English in the original, you will find that this translation is covered up by the Arabic subtitles.
- Censorship exists in the UAE, although this is perhaps less than you would expect in a Muslim country.
If you want something a little out of the ordinary, the Mall of the Emirates and Festival City cinemas offer a Gold Class option. Each has a small theater with large leather reclining armchairs arranged in pairs with a small private table and waiter service. Alternatively, the cinema at Ibn Battuta Mall boasts a theater with the region’s first IMAX screen. If you want to watch one of your favorite movies in a unique setting, then you can go to the Movies Under the Stars in the Rooftop Gardens at Wafi City (http://www.wafi.com). From October to May, two popular movies from previous decades are shown on Sunday evenings. Moviegoers watch these movies while seated on giant beanbags. Perhaps the best part is that you can go for free, although you will have to pay for popcorn and drinks.
Dubai International Film Festival
A real treat for movie lovers, every December the Dubai International Film Festival (http://www.dubaifilmfest.com) is held in various cinemas and other locations across the city. There is wide range of movies on offer from shorts to full-length feature films. These include the usual mainstream blockbusters but also movies produced in the region, world cinema and independent art films. Actors and directors attend the event and can be seen in the seminars, workshops and talks that run during the festival.
DVDs of the latest blockbusters quickly become available in Dubai, both for rent and purchase. Most supermarkets have DVD sections which stock a good range of popular movies. You can also find movies in most of the electronic stores in the many shopping malls. Prices vary depending on when the DVD was released. New releases cost about AED 100.
Renting movies is popular and easy in Dubai. Spinney’s supermarkets have a large selection of rental movies. Other options are the automated DVD rental systems that are springing up around the city. These include Moviebank Middle East (http://www.moviebankme.com) and Divina Box (http://www.divinabox.com). For a deposit of between AED 100 and AED 200, you will be able to rent movies for between one and three days. Typical rental prices are around AED 10-15 per day.
Despite regular crackdowns by the local police, pirate copies of the latest movies circulate freely. Sellers go door to door offering a wide selection of the latest movies and television series. Some of movies are available illegally before they come to the cinemas. You may have to put up with very bad sound quality, people standing up in front of the camera and blocking the screen, and movies that stop working half way through. The price for one of these illegal copies is AED 10-15. As this is comparable to the price of a rental movie, most expats prefer to go for the legal option.
Dubai is not known for Culture with a capital C. Until as recently as 2004, the city did not even have a dedicated venue for putting on cultural performances. This is gradually beginning to change as the sheer number of people in the city means that the potential audience for such performances is increasing.
The Madinat Theater
The cultural life of Dubai changed with the opening of the Madinat Theater (http://madinattheatre.com) in the Souk Madinat Jumeirah in 2004. This popular theater can seat 442 people. It has staged regional and international performances including plays, opera performances, musicals, magic shows and film screenings.
Dubai Community Theater and Arts Center (DUCTAC)
In 2006, DUCTAC (http://www.ductac.org) opened in the Mall of the Emirates. The Centrepoint Theatre seats 543 and the smaller Kilachand Studio Theatre seats 151 people in a more intimate setting. Between them, these theaters have played host to many plays, musicals, pantomimes, experimental theater groups, and other performances. Many of these have been put on with local casts or by local group, including amateur performances by the popular Dubai Drama Group (http://www.dubaidramagroup.org).
Tickets for performances can be obtained from the box offices at the theaters or from their websites. As with all events in Dubai, tickets can also be obtained from Time Out Tickets (Tel: 800 4669, Intl tel: 00971 4 210 8567, http://www.timeouttickets.com) or Box Office ME (http://www.boxofficeme.com). Prices vary depending on the performance and the seating in the theater. Expect to pay upwards of AED 150 for a seat. Many expats who have been in Dubai for a long time are being caught out by the fact that the demand for tickets has increased in recent years. It is no longer possible to buy tickets a few days in advance. It is a good idea nowadays to book as early as you can.
Find out what’s on now and what performances are coming to Dubai by looking at Time Out Dubai (http://www.timeoutdubai.com).