Empire Intl. was launched 100 years ago when a young pharmacist named Georges Haddad began projecting silent shorts in Beirut cafes, and in 1919 opened the city’s first movie theater, which he called the Cosmograph.
By 1935, in partnership with entrepreneur Nicolas Cattan, Haddad had built 36 cinemas across a swathe of the Middle East, “the smallest of which had 1,000 seats,” recalls his son Mario Haddad Sr. Their flagship venue was the Empire Cinema on
Beirut’s trendy Rue Gouraud, where Ernst Lubitsch’s first talkie, “The Love Parade,” premiered locally in 1931. With 1,200 seats and two balconies, it was among the most luxurious hardtops in the Arab world.
Then, in 1956, having become the leading film company in the region, the Cattan and Haddad partnership was dissolved after Georges’ death and