SABRİ ŞENEVİ CINE-HOUSE and ADANA CINEMAS
(Türkçe için lütfen aşağıya bakınız – for Turkish, please see below)
Before 1960, about twenty enterprises registered by the Chamber of Commerce were engaged in the cinema and film business in Adana. The fact that cinema was a highly dynamic and intensive line of business in the city is certainly not accidental. The main reason behind this intensity is the city’s economic order, which is mostly based on human labour. Since the second half of the 19th century, the city has been the centre of national cotton production, and while agricultural production continued to maintain its importance, it also underwent a rapid industrialisation process as one of the first main cities of the Republican era. This process gains momentum with the announcement of the Truman Doctrine and Marshall Plan in 1948 and the Democratic Party’s takeover of power in 1950. With this acceleration, Adana received a large number of tools and equipment to be used in agriculture and agriculture-based industry. However, due to agricultural production, especially cotton production, which was not yet fully mechanised, there was a high demand for agricultural labourers. A large number of seasonal agricultural labourers were attracted to Adana due to the production of high-yielding ‘akala’ cotton, which was cultivated after 1940 and which had to be harvested in a very short time. On the other hand, in parallel with the start of mechanisation in agriculture, there is an intensive movement from rural areas to the city centre. As the demand for labour increases both in the industrial sector and in the agricultural lands providing raw materials, the population of the city also increases. Due to the intensive migration mainly originating from the Çukurova Region, the population of the city reached 900.000 people in 1965, 400.000 of whom were settled in the centre and 500.000 in the rural. Moreover, during this period, between 1965 and 1970, most of those who migrated to the city worked as wage labourers. This not only shows that the existing demand was transformed into employment at a high rate, but also that the mobile population in the city had the material means to participate in one way or another in the social life concentrated in tea gardens, casinos and especially cinemas.
After 1960, the demand for cinema in Adana was so high that it was the second largest market in the city, just behind the Istanbul region, which included Thrace, Zonguldak and Eskişehir. Hürrem Erman, one of the leading producers of the period, stated that most of the revenue was generated from Istanbul and Adana, followed by Izmir, Samsun and Ankara. This was an environment in which more than 100 hall and open-air cinema venues were operating at the same time; a 70mm projection machine was installed in 1973 and the first screening was made with the 2001: A Space Odyssey (Stanley Kubrick, 1968), but at the same time, cinema merchants were selling films in highland villages with 16mm projectors loaded on mule backs. This was a period in which film production, import, distribution and other related businesses were organised in the Adana Filmmakers Association, cinema owners or operators in the Adana Cinema Owners Association, and audiences in cinema clubs that cooperated with the Sinematek Association of Istanbul and the Turkish Film Archive. Moreover, this structure was not established solely through consumption activities. Nationally known screenwriters such as Orhan Kemal and Osman Şahin; Yılmaz Güney, Ali Habip Özgentürk, Yılmaz Duru and other directors; producers and venue operators such as Arif and Abdurrahman Keskiner brothers or İrfan Atasoy; and films such as Hope (Yılmaz Güney and Şerif Gören, 1970), Anxiety (Yılmaz Güney and Şerif Gören, 1974) or Zıkkımın Kökü (Memduh Ün, 1993) were also part of this structure. However, from the 1970s onwards, but especially after 1975, the cinema sector in Adana, as in the rest of the country, would enter a crisis and this structure would be transformed.
The number of cinema venue owners and filmmakers operating in Adana decreases significantly in the 1975-1980 period. Film businesses gradually close down, change sectors or transform. Some of the enterprises transformed into news or advertising agencies, while others entered the videocassette import and rental business. Some entrepreneurs leave Adana and continue their film production, import and distribution businesses as well as studio and cinema theatre operations in Istanbul. Cinema venues, on the other hand, were closed or transformed gradually, starting with open-air cinemas. In 1978, there were only 36 hall and 9 open-air venues in Adana, and the number of cinemas decreases with each passing year.
Today, Adana’s cinema history is being revived, kept alive and passed on to new generations through different people and activities. Perhaps the most important of these people is Sabri Şenevi. Sabri Şenevi, who worked as a projectionist at Arzu, Dünya, Bahar, Çelik, Kervan, Mavi Köşk and Lux cinemas between 1975-1989, tries to keep the open-air cinema culture alive with the Cine-House he established under his house and the garden cinema organised within the scope of Adana Cinema Heritage project.
SABRİ ŞENEVİ’S INTRODUCTION TO CINEMA and FIRST FILM SCREENINGS
Sabri Şenevi was introduced to cinema in 1963 at the age of 5 when he went to the movie with his mother and father to see The Triumph of Tarzan (Wilhelm Thiele, 1943) starring Johnny Weissmuller: “The film started, the lights went out. A half-naked man came out and started shouting. Lions, tigers, giraffes, elephants came out of the forest. The animals gathered around the half-naked man. I will never forget that scene, it drew me in. My love and passion for cinema started after seeing that scene.”
For Şenevi, who tells the story of going to Çamlık Cinema in his newest clothes, on his father’s red bicycle, as if going to a wedding, cinema becomes a passion with the first film he watches. But his curiosity about cinema is not limited to watching films. He is interested in how the images on the film come alive on the screen. In order to understand how the film projector works, he starts to enter the projectionist booth and examine the projectors. Eventually, with a projector of his own design, he screened films in the basement of the adobe house where the Cine-House is located today: “Since I didn’t have a lens, I made a lens by filling a light bulb with water. I played the pieces of film I had wound on a reel on a white wall. When the mirror and the sunlight met and reflected on the white wall, the film showed itself. When the sun went away, so did the image. After that, I started to play the film with a flashlight. When the light was not enough, I started to install a 100-candle bulb.”
TRANSITION TO PROJECTIONIST
The turning point for Şenevi was meeting Refik Çakadur, the owner of the shop rented by his father, a tinkerer, in Kanal Köprü district: “When I found out that the owner of the shop, Refik Abi, was a projectionist at Arzu Cinema, I was overjoyed. One day he brought the warped film reels and pointed them at my father. We went to the cinema together and he took me to the projection booth. I learnt the job of straightening the reels. I started to straighten the reels myself. Then Refik Abi said, ‘You are interested in this job. Help me.’ My joy increased even more. Another day Refik Abi said to me, ‘Come on, start the projector. But be careful. If you can’t get it to work, the film won’t run and the audience will whistle. I said I could do it: “At that time, the light that reflected the film on the screen was provided by the burning of coal sticks by touching each other. I started the engine and ignited the coals. I turned the lever in front and pressed the button, the machine started. I lifted the lever and the image fell on the screen. I switched on the audio and thus I operated the projector without any accidents. I learnt how to glue the broken films and how to insert coals. It got to the point that I was operating the machine myself. I started to work as an assistant projectionist in the evenings. I learnt the job well in the course of time. My master was now handing the job over to me. Thus, I started working as a cinema projectionist.”
INVENTORY OF CINE-HOUSE: COLLECTION and MUSEUM
Sabri Şenevi, who collected many film posters, 35 and 16mm films and cinema projectors both during his time as a projectionist and after the closure of Adana cinema venues, decided to transform the ground floor of his house into Cine-House in 2011. Today, the inventory of Cine-House includes about 20.000 digital films, 5.000 DVDs, 4.000 videocassettes, 150 35mm, 50 16mm and 1 70mm films. In addition, three 35 mm, seven 16 mm and three 8 mm projectors and approximately 10.000 film posters can be seen in the Cine-House. In the past, records and cassettes that were played in Adana cinemas before the start of the film or between the screenings are also included in the archive. In addition, photographs, tickets and various documents belonging to cinema halls and open-air cinemas operating in Adana between 1960-1985 are also in the archive of Cine-House. Sabri Şenevi continues to collect new materials to expand the collection of Cine-House.
VISITS and VISITORS
Şenevi explained his motivation for opening the Cine-House as follows: “Something that is not shared has no meaning. I thought, ‘I need to share these films and posters.’ I said, ‘Let me turn this into a museum, let me show the films of the past.’ My aim is to introduce Yeşilçam and world cinema to young people and to remind my peers of the past. Visitors who come here live their past. I want to reflect this past to the future.”
The doors of Cine-House are open free of charge to anyone who wants to see the cinemas of the past and get to know those days.