Six months ago visiting a cinema in Saudi Arabia was impossible as theatres had been banned for the past 35 years. There had been an experiment or two – organised by Prince Alwaleed bin Talal – to show how harmless cinema was and last December Prince Mohammed bin Sultan dramatically lifted the ban.
In January the first wholly legitimate – and extremely non-contentious – screening took place, of The Emoji Movie along with Captain Underpants, two harmless animations and not likely to create riots in the streets of Jeddah. Both were screened in a state-run ‘cultural centre’ as there are simply no movie-houses, as yet.
That position is changing, and this Spring will see cinemas opening throughout the kingdom. Indeed, the Saudi General Authority for Culture has created the Saudi Film Council (SFC) to support the industry.
The SAC will, it says, pioneer multiple initiatives…for industry growth, including establishing a fund dedicated to supporting Saudi filmmakers.