Vision expands as Saudi cinemas reopen in 2018

Saudis are rejoicing the government’s decision to allowing opening cinemas across the Kingdom. Earlier this year, musical concerts were allowed in the Kingdom to boost entertainment activities. In this file photo dated Dec. 3, Saudis watch composer Yanni performance at Princess Nourah bint Abdulrahman University in Riyadh. (Reuters)
Updated 27 December 2017

Vision expands as Saudi cinemas reopen in 2018

JEDDAH: On Dec. 11, the Ministry of Culture and Information announced that commercial cinemas will be allowed to operate in the Kingdom as early as March 2018.
And the industry regulator, the General Commission for Audiovisual Media (GCAM), has started the process for granting licenses to cinemas in the Kingdom.
Officials from the board of GCAM stressed that all cinematic shows will be selected to match cultural and social values, and display entertainment content that is useful and purposeful and does not violate the Kingdom’s principles and ethics.
The historic announcement to lift the ban on cinemas in Saudi Arabia was celebrated by the public as they will no longer have to travel to Bahrain and the UAE to go to the movies.
Lack of cinemas in the Kingdom, according to one report, leads to 35,000 Saudis traveling daily to neighboring Bahrain where they spend an average of SR1,200 ($320) a day to see movies.
The move will create competition between cinema chains in the Middle East to control the Saudi cinema market as the Odeon chain will face stiff competition from Dubai-based VOX Cinemas, the leading operator in the Gulf and Middle East with more than 300 screens.
The world’s biggest cinema chains are coming to Saudi Arabia. AMC, which operates 11,000 screens mainly in the US and Europe, announced a joint venture with the Public Investment Fund (PIF), the Saudi sovereign wealth fund.
Saudi Arabia has the greatest malls in the Middle East offering all forms of entertainment, and after the announcement mall operators across the Kingdom began to create space and convert empty units into theaters to be ready for use within the next six months.
Saudi Arabia used to have cinemas to accommodate the influx of European workers at Saudi Aramco. Thirty-five years ago, due to religious activism, this changed due to strict religious bans.
The Saudi cinema market revealed that ticket prices are expected to start from SR30-45. Profits are expected to reach SR100,000,000 annually.
Many filmmakers and social media figures, directors, producers and actors are enthusiastic over the opening up of the Kingdom.
Many noted the importance of establishing institutions in the country to improve the skills of talented Saudi filmmakers, and how they could contribute and support the future of filmmaking and change stereotypical views about Saudi Arabia.


Technical glitches on Absher prevent exempt Saudis from traveling abroad

Updated 40 min 26 sec ago

Technical glitches on Absher prevent exempt Saudis from traveling abroad

  • On Sept. 13, the Saudi government issued a list of categories of people permitted to travel outside of the Kingdom
  • However, only a few days after the announcement, many students, patients and other exempted residents were unable to apply due to a technical fault on Absher

JEDDAH: Absher, the “one-stop shop” web-portal for Saudi government services, has been experiencing technical glitches that have left many citizens and expats unable to travel, despite them meeting the “exceptional case” categories outlined by the Interior Ministry more than two weeks ago.
Earlier this year and as part of its response to COVID-19, the Saudi government suspended all international flights to and from the Kingdom in a move that has successfully reduced infections across the country.
On Sept. 13, the Saudi government issued a list of categories of people permitted to travel outside of the Kingdom. These include diplomats, humanitarian cases, Saudis who live outside the Kingdom for work or study, among others. To be able to leave the country an eligible individual must apply — with supporting documents — for a permit to the passport authority.
However, only a few days after the announcement, many students, patients and other exempted residents were unable to apply due to a technical fault on Absher.
“The option to request the permit suddenly vanished from the relevant page, so while you could access Absher you just couldn’t submit your request. I tried every day for nearly two weeks,” said a Saudi woman who holds residency in a neighboring country. She added that while there was no announcement, the only information that she read in the local press was that the service was facing technical glitches.
“Yesterday, they announced that Absher was back but said that new requirements were set,” she said. “These include providing a copy of the residency card abroad and proof that an applicant has lived out of the Kingdom for six months every year for the past three years. In addition they requested a copy of my tenancy contract.”
“I spent all day collecting the documents. When I tried to upload the PDF the first time it told me that the file was too big, so I went to find software to reduce the size and when I finally managed to do so, I couldn’t log in as the whole website was down with a message saying that it was either temporarily unavailable or that they were serving someone else,” she said.
Other people, including one Saudi cancer patient who is due to return for treatment in Germany, spoke of the same technical glitches. When Arab News tried to log on to verify earlier today, it was unable to with an automated message that said “currently we are serving others, please try again later.”  The problem seems to have been resolved for some users by 10 pm.