Soft opening for Saudi cinemas, then curtain up in May

People attend a film festival in Riyadh recently. (AFP file photo)
Updated 17 April 2018

Soft opening for Saudi cinemas, then curtain up in May

  • Cinemas were popular in major Saudi cities 50 years ago
  • Cinema revival in the Kingdom is part of widespread social reforms

JEDDAH: A new era of cinema history in Saudi Arabia will be ushered in at a private film screening this week.

The screening, a collaboration between the Saudi Development and Investment Entertainment Company and US theater giant AMC Entertainment, will take place on Wednesday at a newly built cinema complex in Riyadh’s King Abdullah Financial District.

The private screening — one of a series of invitation-only shows — comes as cinemas in the Kingdom prepare to open their doors following the end of a 35-year ban. The move is part of widespread social reforms led by Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman.

Cinemas will open their doors to the public in May, with tickets expected to go on sale online later this month.

Three screens will open in the third quarter of 2018, with 40 or more cinema complexes due to be built in the next five years.

Half a century ago, cinemas were popular in major cities in Saudi Arabia. Oil workers in the 1930s set up large outdoor screens to watch US and European films.

Cinemas quickly spread across the Kingdom, with 30 theaters operating in Jeddah alone. 

But religious changes in the Kingdom in the early 1980s led to a ban, forcing people to install home theaters or travel to neighboring countries to enjoy global films.

Saudis have been watching the rebirth of cinema in the Kingdom with growing excitement.

Jeddah student Amani Al-Ghoraibi told Arab News: “It will be a new experience that everyone is ready to embrace.” 

Teacher Maha Al-Zahrani said: “Cinemas were only banned because of some hard-liners. All citizens want them back.”

LuLu opens Saudi Arabia's largest store in Riyadh

Updated 58 sec ago

LuLu opens Saudi Arabia's largest store in Riyadh

JEDDAH: LuLu Group recently opened its 150th hypermarket in Riyadh. It was inaugurated by Ibrahim Al-Omer, governor of Saudi General Investment Authority (SAGIA); Ibrahim Al-Suwail, deputy governor of SAGIA; along with Sheikh Shakhbout bin Nahyan Al-Nahyan, UAE ambassador to Saudi Arabia; Yusuff Ali M.A., LuLu Group chairman; Shehim Mohammed, LuLu Saudi director; and other dignitaries and royal family members.
Located at the newly launched Atyaf Mall in Yarmouk, the hypermarket, the 13th in the country and the Kingdom’s largest, is spread across 220,000-square-feet.
Yusuff Ali M.A. said: “We are absolutely delighted to open our group’s 150th and Saudi Arabia’s 13 hypermarket in Riyadh and I am sure the shoppers here will be pleased by the new retail experience we have created. Through our internationally sourced quality products and enthusiastic staff, LuLu has been the most preferred destination for different nationalities and we will continue to preserve this identity with our new store.”
He added: “We see tremendous growth opportunities in the Kingdom and are glad to be part of the Vision 2030 by further expanding our presence here. We will open another 15 hypermarkets by 2020 at an investment of SR1 billion ($266 million) out of which five will be opened this year itself. This includes three hypermarkets in Riyadh followed by one each in Tabuk and Dammam. This is apart from the SR1 billion we have already invested in the Kingdom till now.”
The group currently employs more than 3,000 Saudi nationals, out of which 1,400 are women, amounting to 40 percent of Saudization.
“Our goal is to give employment to 6,000 Saudi nationals by the end of 2020. We have a very elaborate and effective multi-level training program, through which we not only train them here but also send the local recruits to other regions in the GCC and India for training in various departments. We have also tied up with Saudi vocational institutions and universities in this regard,” the LuLu Group chairman said.