JEDDAH: Cinemas existed in Saudi Arabia half a century ago, however many of them were not real cinemas, they were movie theaters mainly found in sports clubs, foreign embassies or personally supported by individuals.
Early movie theaters were not originally set up to be cinema halls; any large area could be converted into a movie theater. It is believed that a formal license was not necessary to set one up.
However, Saudi electronic newspaper Sabq posted recently an old document of a building permit to establish a cinema hall in Riyadh 44 years ago.
The building permit was issued by Riyadh Municipality in 1975, and it allowed the construction of a cinema behind King Faisal Road.
The document proves that the regulations in Saudi Arabia did not object to building cinemas in the capital decades ago.
“Saudi Arabia lived in moderate Islam at the time before the Awakening movement spread in the region after 1979,” the newspaper stated.
Religious and social changes took place in Saudi Arabia following the failed attempt by Juhayman Al-Otaibi and fellow extremists to capture the Grand Mosque in Makkah in 1979, which resulted in the closing of all cinemas in the Kingdom.
Cinemas were closed in all major cities and embassies closed their doors to members of the community.
Movie screenings returned to the Kingdom on April 18 with the gala premiere of “Black Panther” in Riyadh.
Saudi Arabia began issuing licenses again in March 2018 to operate cinemas in the Kingdom ahead of their reopening after a decades-long ban was lifted.
The document was widely shared on social media platforms and was surprising for many people.