Riyadh, January 15: After lifting a 35-year-old ban on cinemas, Saudi Arabia on Sunday began screening feature-length animated children’s films in a makeshift theatre. Notably, Saudi Arabia in the month of December last year lifted the ban on commercial cinemas that has lasted more than three decades.
In a makeshift tent in the coastal Red Sea city of Jeddah, a film was screened on a projector with the audience even allowed the opportunity to make the most of a popcorn machine. However, Saudi film fans were bit worried as the first movie shown in the kingdom was 'The Emoji Film'.
The first permanent theatres could open as early as March, part of a liberalizing reform drive that has already opened the door to concerts, comedy shows and women drivers over the past year. For now, the Saudi 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.
Saudi Arabia lifted the ban on commercial cinemas that lasted more than three decades. The government in Saudi Arabia said that the public cinemas in the country would be allowed in the Kingdom and the first cinemas were likely to open early next year.
Interestingly, the announcement from Saudi government comes as a part of the Vision 2030 social and economic reform program in the Kingdom and also follows the announcement that women in the Kingdom will be allowed to drive come June 2018.
Earlier in the 70s, cinemas were commonplace in Saudi Arabia and while they were mostly perceived as contradictive of Arab cultural norms, they were not banned. In Riyadh, there is a very small industry, producing mostly feature films and documentaries.