Since cinemas are illegal in the strict Muslim Kingdom, many Saudi Arabians often travel abroad for short periods of time to neighboring countries such as Bahrain to watch movies in cinemas.
“It only takes half an hour to reach Bahrain and it used to be quite a lot of fun,” said.
Ali Omar, a young Saudi from Alkhobar, who used to go to Bahrain from across the King Fahd Causeway every two weeks to watch the latest movies in cinemas.
According to Omar, Bahrain has many cinemas that show the latest American, European and Arab movies.
“As it is not possible for me to watch these films in my country due to the absence of cinemas, I travel to Bahrain where there is a large number of cinemas,” he said. “When I get to the cinemas, I see a lot of Saudis who are there for the same reason,” he added.
Despite the country’s non-existence cinemas, there are several film festivals which are often held in the country. The most recent one was the 4th Annual Asian Film Festival that kicked off in Jeddah on Wednesday, and will continue for two weeks, the newspaper said.
The festival has been organized by the Asian Consulates General Club of 13 Asian countries.
Another annual festival is the European Film Festival organized every year by a European country. African countries have also picked up on the idea and are working on launching an African film festival.
Setback for tourism
Absence of cinemas hurt Saudi domestic tourism, said Abdullah Zuahdi, an employee for a private tourist company in Dammam.
“The film festivals organized by European, Asian and African countries may not be to the taste of Saudi viewers who are used to watching American action films and Arab movies,” he said.
Riyadh’s mayor, Abdul Aziz bin Ayyaf, who is also the chairman of the tourism development board, rang the bell for urgency, and said the city is in urgent need of such cinemas that can be properly controlled.
Ayyaf said Riyadh’s municipality organizes plays during the Eid holidays and during some weekends. “The private sector has currently organized a play at the King Fahd Cultural Center in Riyadh. Cooperation between the municipality, the Ministry of Culture and Information, the General Presidency of Youth Welfare and the Chamber of Commerce and Industry will further boost theatrical activities in the city,” he said.
He denied that the municipality has carried out a study in this regard.