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Neighbors sign up in bid to save Jerusalem theater

The beloved Smadar movie house, a symbol of local pluralism, is under threat of closure, again

Jessica Steinberg covers the Sabra scene from south to north and back to the center.

During the previous resident-run battle in 2009 over the beloved Lev Smadar theater in the heart of Jerusalem's German Colony (Yossi Zamir/Flash 90)
During the previous resident-run battle in 2009 over the beloved Lev Smadar theater in the heart of Jerusalem's German Colony (Yossi Zamir/Flash 90)

There’s a movie theater that Jerusalemites love so much, they’re willing to help pay for its renovation.

The Lev Smadar theater, located in Jerusalem’s historic German Colony neighborhood, was long owned by a pair of sisters, and is now owned by the husband of one of them; it is also part of the independent Lev movie theater group.

In the past, when neighbors threatened to have the theater closed for its noisy disturbances on Shabbat — it’s one of the few Jerusalem movie theaters that have remained open on the day of rest — or because of its location on prime Jerusalem real estate, customers rallied and made sure it stayed open.

Now the theater is under threat again because of a faulty ceiling that the current owner doesn’t want to pay to fix, said Yoash Ben-Yitzchak, a regular customer who is helping protest the possible closure.

Ben-Yitzchak and other Smadar fans started a petition-crowdfunding effort called Save Smadar that asks concerned residents to buy a NIS 300 membership for 10 films at the theater as a way of raising money to help defray the costs of the renovation.

“We want to get to a thousand people in order to have NIS 300,000 for the Smadar,” he said.

The total cost of the renovation is closer to NIS 3 million, but the Lev chain and the municipality are both willing to chip in some money as long as the public participates in the effort.

More than 1,000 people had said they would be willing to participate less than 48 hours after the petition was posted, said Ben-Yitzchak.

“It’s the second time in seven years that we’ve had to make a lot of noise,” he said. “The first time, Smadar ended up becoming a landmarked building, so we said let’s do it again.”

Ben-Yitzchak said they were told they have until the end of December to gather funds, but he’s hopeful that they’ll be given a few extra months to finalize plans.

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