Saudi Arabia's recent lifting of a 35-year ban on cinemas has drawn a range of reactions from Saudi citizens. While some believe the move will benefit the economy, others see it as yet another sign of encroaching western influence on the conservative ...and more »
Saudi Arabia’s recent lifting of a 35-year ban on cinemas has drawn a range of reactions from Saudi citizens.
While some believe the move will benefit the economy, others see it as yet another sign of encroaching western influence on the conservative kingdom.
Speaking to Anadolu Agency, Sultan al-Bazighi, a former head of Saudi Arabia’s Art and Culture Association, described the decision as a “positive step”.
“It will create a fresh cultural environment, while helping the economy and reducing unemployment,” he said.
“I expect the new cinema industry will become big business in Saudi Arabia,” he added.
Although cinemas have been banned for the last 35 years, al-Bazighi noted, most Saudis have still been able to watch the latest films online or during trips overseas.
Late last year, the Saudi Culture Ministry announced plans to allow movie theaters to operate in the oil-rich kingdom as of March of this year.
Not everyone supports the idea, however.
Sahm al-Layl, a Saudi citizen who opposes the move, told Anadolu Agency: “Since we don’t have local films to show in the cinemas, this step will inevitably lead to the further spread of western culture.”
Saudi Arabia begins screening films after decades-long ban lifted
Saudi Arabia began screening feature-length animated children's films this weekend in a makeshift theatre, after a 35-year-old ban on cinemas was lifted in the conservative kingdom.The first permanent theatres could open as early as March, part of a liberalising reform drive that has already opened the door to concerts, comedy shows and women drivers over the past year.For now, the authorities are sponsoring temporary settings, like the state-run cultural hall in the Red Sea city of Jeddah equipped with a projector, a red carpet and a popcorn machine."Until now, there is no infrastructure for movie theatres, so we are trying to take advantage of (alternative) venues to approximate the cinematic form," said Mamdouh Salim, whose Cinema 70 brand organised the week-long screenings."We tried to use these films to be a starting point as the first cinematic screening after the decision on Dec. 11 to permit movie theatres."Cinemas were banned in the early 1980s as Saudi society turned towards a particularly conservative form of religion that discouraged public entertainment and public mixing between men and women.But reforms led by 32-year-old Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman have eased many of those restrictions, as the government tries to broaden the economy and lessen its dependence on oil.In a nod to conservatives, films will be censored to make sure they remain in line with the kingdom's "moral values".Saudi Arabia says cinemas will be allowed from early 2018More funAfter watching The Emoji Movie with his wife and daughter on Sunday evening, 28-year-old Sultan al-Otaibi said Saudis are happy to see movies in the theatre instead of staying at home."It's more comfortable, more fun to have a change of scenery and an activity on the weekend. It is a step that was very late in coming but thank God it's happening now." Thousands of Saudis currently travel to Bahrain, the United Arab Emirates and other countries for entertainment. The government wants to retain the money spent on those trips.The authorities expect to open 300 cinemas with 2,000 screens by 2030, building an industry it hopes will contribute more then 90 billion riyals ($24 billion) to the economy and create 30,000 permanent jobs.Regional and international cinema chains are also eyeing the Saudi market, keen to tap the spending power of the young people who make up roughly 70 percent of the population."I want to see everything because it is something new for Saudi," said 30-year-old movie-goer Ibtisam Abu Talib. "I hope everything is available - action, romance, children's films, comedy. Everything, God willing."
The Saudi authorities banned cinemas countrywide during the mid-1980s.
The decision to reverse the ban comes as part of a raft of reforms introduced by King Salman bin Abdulaziz, who last year also announced his decision to allow women to drive -- a move set to take effect in June.
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