Speculations rife on return of cinemas

October 02, 2017

Arwa Al-Mihanna

Okaz/Saudi Gazette

RIYADH — Just a few days after the Royal decree granting women the license to drive, speculations have increased about the probability of opening cinema halls in the Kingdom.

Former chairman of the Saudi Cinema Committee Fahd Al-Tamimi expects cinemas to be opened before the end of 2017.

He stressed that there is nothing in the Ministry of Culture and Information laws that prevent cinema halls.

Chairman of the General Entertainment Authority Ahmed Al-Khatib told Reuters in April that cinemas would come to Saudi Arabia eventually, but this will happen as per official measures that the Kingdom adopts when dealing with developmental projects.

“These measures take all demands, particularly the desires of the society which will benefit from these projects, into consideration,” he told Reuters.

He said GEA’s approach is based on enabling the private sector to improve entertainment in a way that harmonizes with Saudi values that depend on the tolerant teachings of Islam.

The Kingdom had some cinemas in the 1970s. Cinemas are still banned. But concerts have started to be held this year.

The government has promised a shake-up of the cultural scene with a set of “Vision 2030” reforms.

The government has commissioned the Boston Consulting Group to identify venues like parks and theaters for the Kingdom to develop through a mix of government funding and private sector investment.

Khateeb said the GEA’s activities have created 20,000 jobs so far after only seven months, and can surpass targets set out last year in the Vision 2030. He predicts the share of Saudi spending on entertainment will triple to 8 or 9 percent by 2030.

The Kingdom’s most ambitious leisure project to date is a giant entertainment city being planned for outside the capital Riyadh, which would aim to draw regional visitors with resorts, golf courses, car racing tracks and a Six Flags theme park.

“Our start is very encouraging. Every event is sold out,” Khateeb told Reuters in his April interview.

He noted that 10,000 more people than could be accommodated showed up for Comic-Con, a comic book convention held in Jeddah in February.

“The demand is massive. And it is normal – the demographic is young in Saudi Arabia and we have a higher disposable income than other countries.”

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