Cinemas speculated to open in Saudi Arabia before end of 2017

Riyadh: Just a few days after the Royal decree granting women the license to drive, cinemas, currently banned in the country, are expected to open before the end of 2017, Saudi Gazette reported.

Former chairman of the Saudi Cinema Committee Fahd Al-Tamimi stressed that there is nothing in the Ministry of Culture and Information laws that prevent [opening of] cinema halls, the newspaper reported.

Ahmed Al-Khatib, the chairman of the General Entertainment Authority (GEA), had told Reuters in April that cinemas would come to Saudi Arabia eventually, but this would happen as per official measures that the Kingdom adopts when dealing with developmental projects.

His goal, he had said, was to create entertainment that “will be like 99 percent of what is going on in London and New York,” although he had noted that after decades of cultural conservatism such change could not be rapid.

The Kingdom had some cinemas in the 1970s. However cinemas are still banned. But concerts have started to be held this year.

The government has promised a shake-up of the cultural scene with a set of “Vision 2030” reforms, Saudi Gazette said.

GEA’s approach is based on enabling the private sector to improve entertainment in a way that harmonizes with Saudi values that depend on the tolerant teachings of Islam, Al-Khatib had elaborated.

The government has commissioned the Boston Consulting Group to identify venues like parks and theaters for the Kingdom to develop through a mix of government funding and private sector investment, the report added.

The prince, however, could face opposition from religious hardliners as well as a conservative society that is fundamentally opposed to cultural reforms such as women driving and cinema halls.

Grand Mufti Sheikh Abdulaziz Al al-Sheikh, in comments published on his website, said that cinemas and round-the-clock entertainment could open the door to “atheistic or rotten” foreign films and encourage the mixing of the sexes.

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