Friday, June 06, 2014

Saudi Arabia To Unban Movie Theatres?

Saudis are banned from watching movies and have been for about three decades or so. I suppose viewing them is un-Islamic because, you know, movies existed back in Mohammad's day, and it explicitly states in the Quran: "Thou shalt not watch movies. They are very evil."  Actually, Saudis are allowed to rent films and watch television, though I would assume in an extremely censored manner.  It's movie theatres that the hardliners have a problem with. I mean, God forbid genders should mix.

But Saudis really love their movies, so even though it's banned in the Kingdom, Saudis will actually travel hundreds of miles to neighbouring Dubai, Bahrain and Kuwait to watch films there. They will even buy a plane ticket and fly there, spending around 1 billion per annum in Bahrain alone. How's that for idiocy or hypocrisy or whatever you want to call it. That's 1 billion that's not being spent in Saudi Arabia.

Apparently 85% of moviegoers in Bahrain are Saudis.

I remember reading an article several years ago (no longer online), that stated that some of those who were most fiercely opposed to opening cinemas in Saudi Arabia because it "contributes to the rise of violence, encourages promiscuity and moral depravity," could be found sitting in the front row of cinemas in Bahrain.  And according to that article by Al-Riyadh,  one of those bearded Saudi critics, that same conservative who complained about the negative influence of films, loves the violent ones. He was about to watch Saw VI, "..because there are many sequences of endless violence and blood!"

There is change in the wind, however. Saudis might not have to drive to another country to watch the latest film.  According to Al Arabiya:

An investor has officially requested a license from the Saudi General Commission of Audiovisual Media to establish cinemas in the country, a local business website reported Tuesday.
The commission did not object to the idea in principle, and asked the investor to submit a study of the planned project, Maaal reported. [snip]
If the commission thinks the investment is feasible, it could ask higher authorities to clear the way for movie theaters nationwide, sources reportedly said.
“The commission is communicating with the investor about this issue. It’s in itself a big step forward,” Mutlaq al-Buqami, editor-in-chief at Maaal, told Al Arabiya News.

Of course, it probably will take another three decades before it actually happens, but there is hope for the Saudi cinemaphiles.

No comments: