AMN / RIYADH
Saudi Arabia will have its first public cinemas in more than 35 years, after the government announced the lifting of ban on movie theatres. Minister of Culture and Information Awwad bin Saleh Alawwad in a statement said that opening cinemas will act as a catalyst for economic growth and diversification.
He said, by developing the broader cultural sector, the country will create new employment and training opportunities, as well as enriching the Kingdom’s entertainment options.
The government statement said that the licensing process for cinema operators will start within 90 days and the films will be subject to censorship according to media policy standards of the kingdom.
Saudi Arabia has been witnessing a series of reform in the past few months under the powerful Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Salman, which includes giving women the right to drive and to attend soccer games.
The oil-rich kingdom is also undergoing an economic overhaul to reduce its dependency on oil and to project the country as a more liberal and modern economy, which is also tourist friendly.
“The Ministry of Culture and Information has gone a long way in studying the cinema sector in the Kingdom in order to prepare the necessary executive framework that could lead to creating an integrated cinematic experience, and provide a cultural and recreational experience for the entire family,” Al-Muammar said. He added that further details of regulations would later be announced.
Abdullah Al-Shamlani, spokesman for GCAM told Arab news that the commission would, after three months, issue all the official regulations for running cinema houses in the Kingdom.
“Licensing is due to begin after readying the show regulations and rules in public places within a period not exceeding 90 days,” Al-Shamlani said. He added that their role, as a watchdog, is to monitor and supervise the local cinematic scene after regulations are established.
How Saudi filmmakers reacted to the news
A hashtag went viral on Twitter and social media that created a big fuss immediately after the announcement between opponents and supporters of the decision. Here is how famous social media figures reacted to the news.
Hossam El-Sayed, a movie director and animation filmmaker, told Arab News: “The decision was expected and obvious in light of the entertainment boom in the Kingdom. The impact of the local film industry is linked to academic education, which I hope will soon be intensively spread through workshops of the international film industry.”
He said: “I believe Twitter gauges the real pulse of decisions and the community rejoiced in it. As an animated filmmaker, I question how talented filmmakers will be supported in the region.”
Ali Al-Sumain, a Saudi director, told Arab News: “The real industry will now begin. With cinemas, individuals in the Saudi community will be exposed to a new type of entertainment…”
He added: “It will create a huge difference in the way we perceive things around us, so if a person is watching a movie for the sake of art appreciation, art will be appreciated more.