Lights, camera, action: The night movies came back to Saudi Arabia

Children await the film screening in Jeddah on Saturday. (Reuters)
Updated 16 January 2018
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Lights, camera, action: The night movies came back to Saudi Arabia

RIYADH: Film fans went to the movies in Saudi Arabia at the weekend for the first time in 35 years.
Feature-length animated children’s films were screened at a makeshift cinema set up in a cultural hall in Jeddah — and full-scale movie theaters could open as early as March as authorities finalize regulations and a legal framework.
“We are working with government officials and private companies. In 90 days, we will have the details,” General Commission for Audiovisual Media spokesman Abdullah Al-Shamlani told Arab News.
Meanwhile cinema chiefs are doing their best to make film fans feel at home, with a projector, a red carpet and a popcorn machine at their temporary venue.
“There is no infrastructure for movie theaters, so we are trying to take advantage of venues to approximate the cinematic form,” said Mamdouh Salim, whose Cinema 70 brand has organized a week of screenings.
“We tried to use these films to be a starting point as the first cinematic screening after the decision on Dec. 11 to permit movie theaters.”
After watching The Emoji Movie with his wife and daughter on Sunday evening, Sultan Al-Otaibi, 28, said Saudis were happy to see movies in a cinema instead of staying at home.
“It’s more comfortable, more fun to have a change of scenery and an activity at the weekend. It is a step that was very late in coming but thank God it’s happening now.”
Saudi authorities expect to open 300 cinemas with 2,000 screens by 2030, building an industry it hopes will contribute more then SR90 billion ($24 billion) to the economy and create 30,000 permanent jobs.
Regional and international cinema chains are also eyeing the Saudi market, keen to tap the spending power of the young people who make up roughly 70 percent of the population.
“I want to see everything because it is something new for Saudis,” said 30-year-old moviegoer Ibtisam Abu Talib, 30
“I hope everything is available — action, romance, children’s films, comedy. Everything, God willing.”


Saudi Arabia to release 1,000 Ethiopian prisoners

Ethiopian immigrants returning from Saudi Arabia arrive at Addis Ababa's Bole International Airport in this December 10, 2013 photo. Hundreds of thousands of undocumented Ethiopians were sent home in 2013 but they have apparently been replaced by new arrivals in the succeeding years. (AFP file photo)
Updated 20 May 2018
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Saudi Arabia to release 1,000 Ethiopian prisoners

  • Hundreds of thousands of undocumented Ethiopian migrants were repatriated from Saudi Arabia in 2013.
  • Officials in Riyadh are in the process of deporting more than 500,000 Ethiopian migrants this year.

ADDIS ABABA: Saudi Arabia has agreed to release 1,000 Ethiopian nationals who have been in prison in the Gulf state for a variety of offenses, Ethiopian state-affiliated media said on Saturday.

The decision was made following a request by Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed, who was in Riyadh on an official visit this week, Fana Broadcasting Corporation reported.

The agency said among the detainees were 100 women. It did not disclose what the charges were. Hundreds of thousands of Ethiopian nationals live in the Gulf region, mostly in Saudi Arabia.

Officials in Riyadh are in the process of deporting more than 500,000 undocumented Ethiopian migrants.

So far, 160,000 have arrived back in the Horn of Africa country.

During his recent visit to Riyadh, Ahmed met with leaders of Ethiopian community and discussed setting up a strong partnership between the government and the community to address challenges they are facing.

The trip is his first outside Africa after three visits to neighbouring countries. The East African nation secured thousands of exit visas for its nationals and flew them back home.

Established diplomatic relations in 1948, Saudi Arabia is among the first Arab countries to open embassy in Addis Ababa.