The rise, fall and rebirth of Saudi cinema

Updated 13 December 2017

The rise, fall and rebirth of Saudi cinema

JEDDAH: Cinemas existed in Saudi Arabia’s major cities about half-a-century ago. Westerners working for the California State Oil Company (later Aramco) were the first to introduce cinemas to Saudis.
They installed large screens in their residential compounds during the 1930s to watch American and European films. From residential complexes of foreign employees, cinemas spread to the four major Saudi cities: Riyadh, Jeddah, Taif and Abha, until the number of theaters in Jeddah alone reached 30. Ticket prices ranged from SR3 to SR10.
Early movie theaters were mainly found in sports clubs, foreign embassies, or personally supported by individuals. Wealthy businessmen established many of those theaters and they were nowhere near the standards of other Arab cities such as Cairo and Beirut. It was not difficult to open one, for such theater houses did not require a formal license at the time.
The “cinema alley,” as the people of Riyadh call it, in Al-Murabba neighborhood, had a large number of movie venues back then. Also, the most famous ones in Jeddah were “Bab Sharif,” located in one of the oldest areas of Jeddah, and the “Abu Safeya” cinema in the Hindawi district.
As for Saudi cinema production, during the 1960s and 1970s, there were only a few documentary films produced by oil companies in the Eastern Province. Among the most famous works produced by Aramco is a documentary film about the inauguration of the first petroleum well in the Kingdom, in the presence of King Abdul Aziz.
Abdullah Al-Muhaisen is considered to be the first Saudi director. In1975, he released what can be referred to as the first Saudi film. It was about the development of the city of Riyadh.
Al-Muhaisen participated in the festival of documentary films in Cairo in 1976. Again, in 1977, he released a more important film, a documentary about the Lebanese civil war and the damage that war inflicted on the beautiful city of Beirut. He was awarded with the Nefertiti Prize for best short film.
Dreams of Saudi cinema were cut short by the religious and social changes that followed the failed attempt by Juhayman Al-Otaibi and fellow extremists to capture the Grand Mosque in Makkah.
Cinemas were closed in all major cities of the Kingdom. Embassies closed their doors to members of the community. At the time, the idea of filming for many religious people in society became a “moral crime.”
Those events resulted in the absence of cinematic culture. During the past decades, the public did not believe in the importance of cinema as important source of culture and knowledge. Traces of that period still exist among many Saudis, especially the negative perception that cinema unravels the very moral fabric of the society, because it includes a content that conflicts with Islamic morals and teachings.
However, during the absence of movie theaters in Saudi Arabia, people were able to deal with that by installing small theaters in their houses, and traveling to neighboring Bahrain and the UAE to watch movies as soon as they got released.

Today, most Saudis, especially youth, see the importance of cinemas, even though some believe that controls are important before they are opened. However, the keen interest of Saudis in cinema industry is easily noticeable through their creative production houses that started a few years ago with the rise of social media such as Telfaz11 and Uturn. They used YouTube to practice and promote their talents.


Minister of Justice approves new bankruptcy case rules

Updated 46 min 53 sec ago

Minister of Justice approves new bankruptcy case rules

  • Justice Minister and President of the Supreme Judicial Council Dr. Walid bin Mohammed Al-Samaani has approved new rules regulating bankruptcy cases’ procedures in commercial courts

RIYADH: Justice Minister and President of the Supreme Judicial Council Dr. Walid bin Mohammed Al-Samaani has approved new rules regulating bankruptcy cases’ procedures in commercial courts.

These regulations were issued after an agreement with the Supreme Judicial Council, giving effect to provisions of paragraph III of article 97 from the executive rules of the bankruptcy system.

They were developed after a survey of the requirements of those cases’ procedures in commercial courts, exploring competent and relevant authorities’ perspectives, and benefiting from the most notable international experience.

They include 24 articles regulating the procedures for reviewing requests under the bankruptcy system and its executive rules in commercial courts. The provisions of rules included: procedures related to jurisdiction and judicial processes in bankruptcy applications, duties of the unit specialized in managing bankruptcy cases in court, procedures for submitting requests and records, suspension of demands, precautionary applications, the inspection of the application and adjudication and the mechanism for issuing rules and decisions and challenging them.

Some of the most important rules which will be enacted after being published in the official gazette are: charting the course of bankruptcy cases from presenting the application until adjudicating it, and determining the case’s timeframe while taking into account the nature of bankruptcy cases. The rules also included activating the role of the administrative unit specializing in bankruptcy cases, and benefiting from modern electronic means in processing those cases, in support of the speedy completion of bankruptcy cases and the improvement of procedural labor in commercial courts which will lead to increased efficiency in bankruptcy cases.

They are expected to have an important effect in the Kingdom’s future classification for resolving bankruptcy cases in the World Bank's annual Doing Business report.