Riyadh, Asharq Al-Awsat – A senior state official in the capital Riyadh has taken a stance in support of the establishment of movie theatres in Saudi Arabia, describing this as being a “necessity” in light of the release of statistics that around 230,000 Saudi citizens visited the UAE in summer 2010 in order to visit the cinema.
Mayor of Riyadh Prince Abdulaziz Bin Ayyaf Al-Miqrin denied that the Riyadh municipality is considering establishing movie theatres in the Saudi capital. However he also stressed that the establishment of movie theatres in Saudi Arabia has become a “necessity.” Answering a question about this issue, Riyadh Mayor Prince Abdulaziz Al-Miqrin told a press conference that “there can be no doubt there is a need for this [movie theatres], I think that this is a necessity, particularly if everything that is shown [in the cinema] is approved.”
Mayor of Riyadh Prince Abdulaziz al-Miqrin also stressed the importance of regulations being implemented to control what films can be shown in movie theatres. He said that there is no difference with regards to movie theatres playing a role [in society], whether this is in Saudi Arabia or elsewhere. He said “I do not think there is any different if a film is shown in Riyadh or Bahrain, especially as the movies that will be shown will have to be approved by the Ministry of Culture and Information.”
This government stance in support of the establishment of cinemas in Saudi Arabia comes at a time when this idea is meeting with strong objections by some conservative circles in the country.
When Riyadh witnessed its first public showing of a movie a few years ago at the King Fahd Cultural Center, dozens of Saudi conservatives came out to protest this. The idea of establishing movie theatres in Saudi Arabia is contingent upon the Saudi Arabian public accepting this idea, however a number of experts in tourism have said that cinema represents an important source to increase tourism and tourism revenues.
The Riyadh Chamber of Commerce and Industry yesterday held the Third Riyadh Shopping and Entertainment Festival, which attracted approximately 3 million visitors, 1.5 million of which travelled from outside of the capital.
Mayor of Riyadh Prince Abdulaziz al-Miqrin also told a press conference yesterday that “there is total conviction regarding the importance of festivals and tourism in Riyadh…and we hope for greater and greater cooperation for more success, whether with regards the municipality [of Riyadh] or elsewhere, and this is according to the directives and desires of Riyadh Governor Prince Salman Bin Abdulaziz Al-Saud, and [Deputy Governor] Prince Sattam Bin Abdulaziz al-Saud…and this is part of their desires to [promote] recreation and leisure.”
As for the future steps regarding the drama and theatre performances that take place on the sideline of the Eid festival and which annually enjoys a high turnout, Prince Abdulaziz Bin Ayyaf Al-Miqrin said “some of the plays that are staged during Eid are staged on weekends, and next week another play is being staged. In addition to this, there are private sector plays that are staged at the King Fahd Cultural Center, in cooperation between Riyadh municipality, the Ministry of Culture and Information, the Presidency of Youth and Welfare, the Saudi Commission for Tourism, and the [Saudi] Chamber of Commerce…all contributing to the promotion of tourism in Riyadh.”