RIYADH: In a landmark decision, Saudi Arabia on Monday said that cinemas will open in the country for the first time in more than 35 years — and filmmakers in the Kingdom are ecstatic.
Sultan Al-Bazie, director of the Saudi Society for Culture and Arts, told Arab News: “We are returning to what we previously had. As you know, Saudi screened movies in the past, but now we will be better developed and well-organized.
“It will be a great cultural and entertainment experience for the whole family. In the past, we traveled to Dubai and Bahrain to watch movies; now we will have them in Saudi Arabia — Riyadh, Jeddah, Dammam.”
Abdullah Qurashi, a Saudi filmmaker and producer, is delighted. “Ever since the news broke, we (Saudi filmmakers, producers, directors, actors) have been going around congratulating each other with ‘mabrouks’ and kisses; it feels like Eid!”
Before, filmmakers in Saudi Arabia faced difficulties and skepticism in financing their films. “Now, there is an actual market... This will have a huge economic impact, and this is so exciting. Now I can confidently approach investors and say, ‘I would like to make a movie,’ and it now sounds like a business pitch and not a hopeful dream.”
Dr. Omar Al-Jaser, a Saudi actor and director, said: “This is wonderful news and coincides with Saudi Vision 2030. I hope that the Ministry of Information and Culture will support both males and females in producing and directing movies financially so that we can be given a chance to produce Saudi films.”
“It’s crucial that Saudi filmmakers take courses abroad to widen their horizons and that they may gain crucial experience. Logistic and financial support from the government is vital in order to develop this field,” he said.
Khaled Yeslam, a Saudi actor, said: “We now have no excuse not to excel in this field. I would like to act in dramatic roles that showcase the struggles of human beings. Globally, all humans struggle and this can break the barrier of stereotyping Saudis… and make people all around the world relate to us. It will bridge gaps.”
The first multiplexes are expected to open in March 2018, and experts predict that by 2030 there will be more than 300 cinemas across the Kingdom.