Lights, camera, action: The night movies came back to Saudi Arabia

Children await the film screening in Jeddah on Saturday. (Reuters)
Updated 16 January 2018

Lights, camera, action: The night movies came back to Saudi Arabia

RIYADH: Film fans went to the movies in Saudi Arabia at the weekend for the first time in 35 years.
Feature-length animated children’s films were screened at a makeshift cinema set up in a cultural hall in Jeddah — and full-scale movie theaters could open as early as March as authorities finalize regulations and a legal framework.
“We are working with government officials and private companies. In 90 days, we will have the details,” General Commission for Audiovisual Media spokesman Abdullah Al-Shamlani told Arab News.
Meanwhile cinema chiefs are doing their best to make film fans feel at home, with a projector, a red carpet and a popcorn machine at their temporary venue.
“There is no infrastructure for movie theaters, so we are trying to take advantage of venues to approximate the cinematic form,” said Mamdouh Salim, whose Cinema 70 brand has organized a week of screenings.
“We tried to use these films to be a starting point as the first cinematic screening after the decision on Dec. 11 to permit movie theaters.”
After watching The Emoji Movie with his wife and daughter on Sunday evening, Sultan Al-Otaibi, 28, said Saudis were happy to see movies in a cinema instead of staying at home.
“It’s more comfortable, more fun to have a change of scenery and an activity at the weekend. It is a step that was very late in coming but thank God it’s happening now.”
Saudi authorities expect to open 300 cinemas with 2,000 screens by 2030, building an industry it hopes will contribute more then SR90 billion ($24 billion) to the economy and create 30,000 permanent jobs.
Regional and international cinema chains are also eyeing the Saudi market, keen to tap the spending power of the young people who make up roughly 70 percent of the population.
“I want to see everything because it is something new for Saudis,” said 30-year-old moviegoer Ibtisam Abu Talib, 30
“I hope everything is available — action, romance, children’s films, comedy. Everything, God willing.”


Organizers promise ‘exceptional’ Saudi National Day celebrations

Updated 47 min 56 sec ago

Organizers promise ‘exceptional’ Saudi National Day celebrations

  • We are keen to have the largest international events to create an exceptional season, says GEA CEO Amr Banaja

RIYADH: Fireworks, concerts, festivals and international performances will be among the highlights of the 89th Saudi National Day celebrations this year.

The General Entertainment Authority (GEA) has announced a season of record-breaking events for the annual celebration.

At a press conference in Riyadh on Sunday, GEA CEO Amr Banaja said that Saudi citizens and residents can enjoy a number of entertainment activities planned across 13 regions of the Kingdom as part of the National Day season being supervised by the GEA from Sept. 19 to 23.

“The GEA is proud to oversee the Saudi National Day Season activities by launching a unified identity that brings together the society under “Himma Hatta El-Qimmah,” Banaja said, inspired by the words of Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman: “The Saudis’ strength is like that of the Tuwaiq mountain.”

The GEA was proud to be overseeing the occasion, Banaja said. “We are keen to have the largest international events to create an exceptional season befitting this dear country,” he said.

“This year fireworks celebrations will continue for several days where more than 700,000 shots will be fired at an altitude of up to 300 meters, accompanied by music,” he said.

Celebrations will be held in all regions during the season, and visitors will be able to enjoy a range of activities that reflected the unity of the nation and the cohesion of the people and leadership.

“Distinctive international shows designed especially for the National Day will be held in Riyadh from Sept. 21-23,” he said.

Fireworks will light up Jeddah over Al-Hamra Corniche accompanied by sound and light effects and laser shows.

At the five-day Dhahran Exhibition in Dammam starting on Sept. 19, the world’s largest theatrical producer “Cirque du Soleil” will present a specially designed show for Saudi National Day.

Forty artists will present 14 shows of acrobatics, sports, music, and dance. Eight concerts will also be held in a number of regions where, besides international stars, Saudi and Gulf artists will present patriotic songs.

The concerts will begin on the first day of the season on Sept. 19 at Al-Jouf University Stadium in Sakaka with performances by Khaled Abdulrahman and Nabil Shuail.

The next day, a concert will be held at King Khalid Sport City in Tabuk staged by artists Abdullah Al-Rowaished and Aseel Abu Bakr.

On Sept. 21, Majid Al-Mohandes and Dalia Mubarak will perform at Prince Abdul Aziz Bin Musaed Stadium in Hail.

On Sept. 22, two concerts will be performed at King Abdullah Sports City in Buraidah by artists Rashid Al-Majid and Balqees Fathi; the second at Prince Sultan Cultural Center in Jazan by “The Artist of Arabs” Mohammed Abdo and Turki.

On Saudi National Day (Sept. 23), three concerts will be held in Riyadh, Jeddah and Dammam.

Thousands will gather at King Fahd Cultural Center in Riyadh to listen to singers Hussein Al-Jasmi and Abadi Al-Jawhar.

In Jeddah, Rabeh Saqr and the artist Waad will perform at King Abdullah Sports City, while in Dammam, and in the Green Halls in Riyadh, Kuwaiti singer Nawal and the artist Ayed will entertain the audience.

Five forums will take place in five cities, where a number of speakers will present inspirational events.

Forums will be held in Madinah and Tabuk on Sept. 19, while in Abha and Buraidah the forum will be held on Sept. 21 and in Hail on Sept. 23.

Banaja said that the GEA had created 150 smartphone apps for the National Day celebrations with 40,000 downloaded so far.

He thanked the security authorities for their efforts to make the season a success, and all government, private and nonprofit sectors for their contribution.

The programs were mostly free, he said, though there were some concerts for which tickets could be purchased online.

There will also be a major aero show in Riyadh, Jeddah and the Eastern Province, and a Saudi falcon show will be organized in Riyadh, Jeddah and Alkhobar.