DHAHRAN: Movie screenings returned to the Kingdom on April 18 with the gala premiere of “Black Panther” in Riyadh, and one man in the audience was watching more closely than most.
Reda Alhaidar, the president of the General Commission for Audiovisual Media (GCAM), is in charge of the authority that grants licenses to cinemas now that a 30-year ban has been lifted as part of a bundle of decrees that fall with the Vision 2030 plan of Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman.
Alhaidar discussed the role of the commission, its future plans and the local filmmaking industry in an exclusive interview with Arab News.
The new cinemas will not just be about Hollywood blockbusters, he said, assuring those in the local film industry that there will be a place for them too.
“In GCAM, we are developing a local content production framework to ensure locally produced movies,” said Alhaidar.
“We have a plan to reinvest part of the revenue generated from the tickets in promoting local production.”
Local film production will be “at the heart of the cinema industry” and a key way to reach out to the world to showcase Saudi identity, culture and talent, he said. “We have a pool of talented people in the country and people living abroad and planning to come back, and who can support growing the film production sector.”
According to Alhaidar, both regional and international film distributors are interested in entering the Saudi market.
Therefore, to ease this process, the role of the commission will be to set the guidelines when selecting movie premieres.
“In GCAM, we develop regulations and guidelines for the sector, to provide licenses to interested and eligible investors, to censor and classify films for appropriate audiences to ensure they are aligned with the Kingdom’s customs and traditions, and to monitor the sector to ensure there are no violations,” Alhaidar said.
Asked whether the Saudi audience can expect a national Oscar-like event that celebrates local movies, Alhaidar said that the commission is open to all options and that one of its aims is to transform the country into a “production hub where producers from all over the Arab world would be genuinely keen to be based in Saudi Arabia.”