At the movies

As the lights go down, the collector grabs our attention to discuss his collection of rare cinema tickets

All scarce and rare items are much sought-after, and this general rule applies not just to collectibles.

Collectors are called gamee’aa. The vast majority of them focus on collecting a few items, while I consider myself one of the few who try to collect everything old and beautiful.

It goes without saying that many people would find our preoccupation with collecting these old manuscripts and papers a little odd. Perhaps they would also be astonished to discover the amount of time, effort and money involved obtaining these specimens, before they fall into the hands of our fellow gamee’aa. At times, it is not unheard of that we may travel to distant places on hearing of a collection appearing there.

What we see before us is a very rare collection of old Egyptian cinema tickets dating back to the first quarter of the 1900s, at the time when the art of cinema was emerging worldwide.

We notice that each ticket in this collection carries the names and pictures of the stars and the names of the movies. Turning to the numbering on the tickets we see that the very small serial number denotes that these tickets belong to premiers, attended by a select few.

Tickets for normal screenings did not carry pictures or the names of the stars. This is an essential measure for the rarity of a manuscript or paper, namely the numbers of them produced, along with how many remain in existence, whether destroyed intentionally or not, as is the case with some things.

If we examine this collection of tickets for instance we will find names of cinemas no longer in existence, such as Cinema Royale which was situated in Abdeen St, or others still operating such as Cinema Diana in Alfi Bek St.

If we further examine the aesthetics of the ticket itself we may further appreciate the artistry inherent in its creation; the color of the paper, the arrangement of the elements on it, the beautiful Arabic writing that is near-extinction after the extensive introduction of computer-generated fonts in most print material.

The value of these items lies primarily in the quality of the pictures of the stars, and in this collection we see Mohamed Abdul Wahab in the movie Yahya El Hob [Long Live Love], the young Umm Kalthoum in Nasheed El Amal [Hymn of Hope], and a special design for a ticket to Maleket El Masareh by Badi’aa Masabni, despite few people knowing that such a movie existed in the first place.

The final item is cinema ticket number 28 for Charlie Chaplin’s 1936 movie Modern Times. This one ticket is sought after by collectors all over the world, primarily because of Chaplin’s impact on cinema. The ticket is priced at 5.5 to 9 piastres as the French states, which indicates how first-class and cosmopolitan our society was then.

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