Complete plans in 90 days to facilitate Saudi cinema launch

Saudis will soon be able to visit cinemas across the Kingdom. (REUTERS)
Updated 15 January 2018

Complete plans in 90 days to facilitate Saudi cinema launch

RIYADH: The General Commission for Audiovisual Media (GCAM) on Thursday held a meeting headed by the chairman of the committee, Reda bin Mohammed Al-Haidar, with a number of government authorities.
The meeting was to prepare regulations and set the framework for the GCAM in preparation for the opening of cinemas in Saudi Arabia.
Abdullah Al-Shamlani, the official spokesperson for the GCAM, told Arab News: “We are still working with government officials and private companies. In 90 days, we will have the details. The meetings, thus far have been very productive.”
Al-Haidar stressed that the goal of the meeting was to discuss the executive plan and requirements of the parties to launch a cinema that corresponds with national values through meaningful content that is consistent with Sharia and will preserve the ethical values of the Kingdom.
Al-Haidar explained that the authority will continue to hold similar meetings with government authorities at its headquarters in Riyadh until the issuance of the list of theaters.
The board of directors of the GCAM, chaired by Minister of Culture and Information Dr. Awad Al-Awad, on Dec. 11 had approved the issuance of licenses for those wishing to open cinemas, with the goal of promoting cultural and media development.
The opening of cinemas will stimulate economic growth, and provide jobs and various career opportunities in new areas.
Ever since Saudi Arabia’s Ministry of Culture and Information announced that commercial cinemas will be allowed to operate in the Kingdom as of early 2018, there have been questions regarding when, where and what regulations will be applied.
After 35 years, Saudi Arabia will reopen cinemas in the country. The announcement opens up a domestic market of more than 32 million people and it is forecast that by 2030, Saudi Arabia will be home to more than 300 cinemas, according to the board of the GCAM.

Motorsport, rock bands, tourists … welcome to the new Saudi Arabia

There was an explosion of joy at the podium when Antonio Felix da Costa lifted the winner’s trophy at the conclusion of the Formula E Saudia Ad Diriyah E-Prix on Saturday. (Photo/Supplied)
Updated 6 min 29 sec ago

Motorsport, rock bands, tourists … welcome to the new Saudi Arabia

  • Three-day event at Ad Diriyah reaches spectacular climax in an unprecedented spirit of openness

The driver with the winner’s trophy was Antonio Felix da Costa — but the real winners were Saudi Arabia itself, and more than 1,000 tourists visiting the country for the first time.

Da Costa, the Andretti Motorsport driver, won the Formula E Saudia Ad Diriyah E-Prix in front of thousands of race fans at a custom-built track in the historic district on the outskirts of Riyadh.

But in truth, the event was about much more than high-tech electric cars hurtling round a race track — thrilling though that was. The three-day festival of motorsport, culture and entertainment was Saudi Arabia’s chance to prove that it can put on a show to rival anything in the world, and which only two years ago would have been unthinkable.

The event was also the first to be linked to the Sharek electronic visa system, allowing foreigners other than pilgrims or business visitors to come to Saudi Arabia.

Jason, from the US, is spending a week in the country with his German wife, riding quad bikes in the desert and visiting heritage sites. “I’ve always wanted to come for many, many years ... I’m so happy to be here and that they’re letting us be here,” he said.

Aaron, 40, a software engineer, traveled from New York for two days. “Saudi Arabia has always been an exotic place ... and I didn’t think I’d ever be able to come here,” he said.

About 1,000 visitors used the Sharek visa, a fraction of what Saudi Arabia aims eventually to attract. 

“Hopefully we will learn from this and see what we need to do for the future, but I can tell you from now that there is a lot of demand,” said Prince Abdul Aziz bin Turki Al-Faisal, vice chairman of the General Sports Authority.

His optimism was backed by Kirill Dmitriev, chief executive of the Russian Direct Investment Fund and a visitor to Ad Diriyah. “Such events will attract tourists and are a true celebration for young Saudis who desire a bright future,” he said.

“The vision of moderate Islam, promoted by Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, is important both for the region and the entire world, and its realization needs to be appreciated, respected and supported.”

The event ended on Saturday night with a spectacular show by US band OneRepublic and the superstar DJ David Guetta. “Just when you think things can’t get better, they suddenly do,” said concertgoer Saleh Saud. “This is the new Saudi Arabia, and I can’t wait to see what’s going to happen next.”