The cinema is just a big screen


Al-Jazirah newspaper

WITHOUT much furor and the usual fuss, the cinema is reborn in Saudi Arabia.

This birth was apparently difficult and it took more than three decades of tug-of-war between societal acceptance and rejection.

An executive decision finally brought cinemas back and it was welcomed by all segments of Saudi society, unlike when it was rejected previously. This indicates a definite shift in the direction Saudi society is taking.

The community has reached an advanced level of maturity and progress that it accepts positive change in concepts and practice, and is gradually getting rid of the residuals of the past.

It is history that cannot be separated from our new reality, which we seek and aspire to, at the same time conforming to the principles of our Shariah. The objective is entertainment in keeping with our religious and ethical values through supervision and regulation of the Saudi cinema sector by the General Authority for Audiovisual Media.

The authority has confirmed that the permit to open movie theaters will be in accordance with the media policy of the government and in conformity with the values the Kingdom espouses, including provision of content that is meaningful and purposeful.

What happened was a new reform move that made our dream come true. In a few months — the time required for licensing regulations — Saudi families will not need to travel to the neighboring Gulf states to watch a film in a theater setting. Entertainment is a basic human right that everyone should enjoy at their own choice.

For a long time, we were a source of revenue for some of these neighboring countries as Saudi families formed the bulk of the audience seeking this kind of innocent entertainment in those countries.

Movies in their real sense and with all their varied ingredients are easily available and accessible through the smart phones in our hands or just a couple of meters away from our eyes in satellite TV channels at our homes, cafes and offices.

What we needed was the legislation and organization to screen those movies in movie theaters for a collective audience sitting in front of a giant screen, which used to happen in our country in the seventies of the last century.

Apart from the economic gains to be made by the film industry, the anticipated returns after allowing the opening of cinemas in the Kingdom and the job prospects for young men and women and other industry-driven people, it is a cultural expression of our Saudi identity. It is enough that we have won this round, ending decades of controversy.

The contradiction is some people still refuse to accept public screening of movies with having controls and regulations in place, yet they accept allowing individuals to watch movies for uncontrolled entertainment at home.