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Saudi Arabia: Why Are There No Cinemas?

“Why are there no cinemas in Saudi Arabia?” asks Saudi blogger Hayfa [Ar], who offers us her ideas of a workable plan to make cineplexes and movie screenings compliant with her country's traditional and religious outlook.

She explains:

ما الذي يمنع وجود دور السينما في السعودية؟ للأسف عادةً يُطرح هذا السؤال في بداية النقاش لتأتي الإجابة لاحقاً متضمنة الأسباب، لكن دون إجابة مقنعة، حيث تضيع الفكرة الرئيسية ونكتفي فقط بمناقشة فكرة دور السينما بشكل عام قبل أن تصبح في السعودية. ما يخطئ به الكثيرين هو الاعتقاد الخاطئ حول فائدة السينما، فالكثيرون يعتبرونها “مجرّد” وسيلة ترفيهية، بينما هي أكثر من ذلك بكثير.. فالسينما وسيلة ثقافية قبل أن تصبح وسيلة إمتاع مثلها في ذلك مثل الكتب. ومايقدّم فيها لا يقلّ أهميّةً عن أي فنّ آخر. وليست الأفلام بالأمر الجديد علينا، فأسواق الفيديو لدينا خير شاهد على اطّلاعنا على هذا الفن، وإن كان هناك نوعٌ من الإحباط في الأفلام التي تزخر بها أسواقنا ذات الطابع الحركي والكوميدي الرخيص نظراً للاحتكار وسيطرة التجارة في هذه المسألة. الخشية تكون دائماً من المحتوى لا من دور العرض، هكذا يجب أن يكون المنطق.. فالأفكار والمشاهد تنقل بالمادّة، والسينما ليست إلا وعاء لهذه المادّة كالتلفاز تماماً وهذا الأخير ليس ممنوعاً في بلدنا. إذن لمَ التخوّف؟ ماذا لو كانت السينما بضوابط إسلامية؟ وأصبحت مواضيع الأفلام مراقبة؟.
في كل الدول تصنّف الأفلام تصنيفاً عمرياً، وهذه الطريقة تنظّم عرض الأفلام بشكل أكبر، وفي استطاعة الجهات الرقابية لدينا التحكّم بالتصنيفات العمرية بالطريقة التي تراها مناسبة. وليتم اقتطاع اللقطات غير مستحبّة كما هو حاصل الآن في شرائط الفيديو دون أن يخل هذا الاقتطاع بمسار الفيلم. ولتكن أوقات عرض الأفلام متناسبة مع أوقات الصلاة..
ولماذا لا نجد طريقة يتم فيها فصل سينما النساء والأطفال عن سينما الرجال؟ نحن لا نريد السينما لعرض ثقافة الآخر بقدر ما نريدها لإنتاج ثقافتنا الخاصة، فالسينما رسالة نستطيع توجيهها كيفما أردنا، وباستخدامنا لها سنضمن وصول صوتنا للعالم دون تشويه، كما هي آراؤهم حولنا.

What prevents the presence of cinema screening halls in Saudi Arabia? Unfortunately, this is the question poised at the beginning of every discussion for an answer which contains the reasons to follow – but the reasons are never convincing. The main idea is lost and we are content with discussing the idea of cinema halls in general before they become a reality in Saudi Arabia. What many people are misguided about is the wrong belief of the benefit of cinemas. A lot of people think that it is ‘merely’ a means of entertainment. In reality, it is more than that by a lot.. Cinema is, like books, a means of culture more than entertainment. What it presents is not lesser in importance than any other art. Films are not something new for us. The video market we have is a testimony that we are well versed in this art, even when this is a depressing reality as the videos in our market focus on action and cheap comedy because of the monopoly and commercial nature of this market. The worry is always from the content and not from the screening halls – this is how we should think logically. Thoughts come to the viewer because of the content (of those movies) and the cinema is a vehicle for this thought just as television is – and the latter is not banned in our country. What is the fear for then?
What if we presented a cinema with Islamic regulations, with the material censored? All countries categorise films based on age groups and this method regulates how films are screened in a better way. Censors can decide on the age groups suitable for each movie in the way they see suitable. They can cut the undesirable parts just as they do with video tapes and in a way which doesn't effect the proceedings of the film. And let the cinema showing timings not coincide with prayer timings.. Why can't we find a way to separate the women's and children's cinemas from the men's cinema? We don't want a cinema to showcase the culture of others, as much as we need it produce our own culture. Cinemas carry a message which we can project the way we want and by utilising it effectively, we can make the world listen to our voices without the stereotypes which mar our images in their eyes.


  • You ask the question. You propose ways to a possible solution. But cinema, movies, is an insidious media. Religious Saudi Arabia has surely his own doubts about the pro and con of what seems to an outside observer a triviality.

  • Thank you for posting and translating my article here. You did a good job doing so, as I enjoyed reading it in English as well.
    I wrote another article for those who rejected the idea of cinema in Saudi Arabia, and can’t see how can movies be produced, without abandoning Islam. The article is about the Iranian cinema, which is considered to be an “Islamic cinema”, yet very creative, enjoyable, and has a great history and future. I might publish it the coming days on my blog, and hopefully you will like it.

  • I had no idea there were no cinemas in Saudi Arabia… Thanks for this post.

  • Great post (and so nice to see the author comment positively in such a way as she did!) – I too had no idea that Saudi Arabia lacked cinemas!

  • […] I learned that there are no movie theaters in Saudi Arabia, and one person from the country is advocating for them.  Another person from Saudi Arabia blogs about his experiences at his new job, and how he was […]

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