Crossroads Arabia

Is Saudi Softening its Stance Towards Cinema?

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There’s a little splash lately over re-introducing cinemas to Saudi Arabia. A few days ago, Asharq Alawsat reported that the Mayor of Riyadh saying that cinema was a ‘necessity’. Today, an article in Arab News points out that Saudis are traveling across borders just to sit in a movie theater. Of course, with the disquiet in Bahrain right now, I suspect those Saudis aren’t making the trip.

It makes me wonder, though, whether there might not be a governmental effort to loosen things up around the edges, to provide at least some legitimate opportunities for youths to be entertained and blow off steam at a time when their peers in other countries are demanding reforms. If so, it strikes me as not the greatest effort that might be taken, but not a bad one, either. Those who would be annoyed by the opening of cinemas—and you can be sure that there would be no ‘mingling of the sexes’ in the theaters—are likely those who would be annoyed at anything that didn’t look like 10 years ago. On the other side, there’d be tens of thousands of young men and women with something to do with their time other than to shop or loiter around shopping malls.

But perhaps I’m reading too much into this. Perhaps it’s only the personal opinion of the Mayor and has nothing to do with reform. Yet another things we’ll have to wait to see about…

Cinema a “necessity” for Kingdom – Riyadh Mayor
Turki Al-Suheil

Riyadh, Asharq Al-Awsat – A senior state official in the capital Riyadh has taken a stance in support of the establishment of movie theatres in Saudi Arabia, describing this as being a “necessity” in light of the release of statistics that around 230,000 Saudi citizens visited the UAE in summer 2010 in order to visit the cinema.

Mayor of Riyadh Prince Abdulaziz Bin Ayyaf Al-Miqrin denied that the Riyadh municipality is considering establishing movie theatres in the Saudi capital. However he also stressed that the establishment of movie theatres in Saudi Arabia has become a “necessity.” Answering a question about this issue, Riyadh Mayor Prince Abdulaziz Al-Miqrin told a press conference that “there can be no doubt there is a need for this [movie theatres], I think that this is a necessity, particularly if everything that is shown [in the cinema] is approved.”

Mayor of Riyadh Prince Abdulaziz al-Miqrin also stressed the importance of regulations being implemented to control what films can be shown in movie theatres. He said that there is no difference with regards to movie theatres playing a role [in society], whether this is in Saudi Arabia or elsewhere. He said “I do not think there is any different if a film is shown in Riyadh or Bahrain, especially as the movies that will be shown will have to be approved by the Ministry of Culture and Information.”

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