Saudi Arabia may consider allowing cinemas
Rebecca Hawkes ©RapidTVNews | 05-01-2012 Saudi Arabia's Ministry of Culture and Information will support the opening of cinemas in the Kingdom if the government so decrees, according to the department's Minister, Dr Abdul Aziz Khoja.
"When Prince Dr Abdul Aziz Bin Ayyaf, Mayor of Riyadh, said we are in the process of setting up cinemas, he would not have said this unless he has definite information in this regard," Khoja told journalists while visiting King Saud University in Riyadh on 3 January.
"At the Ministry of Culture and Information we are ready to cooperate," he is quoted as saying in The Saudi Gazette.
The Mayor of Riyadh has previously said around 230,000 tourists from Saudi Arabia visited the UAE in summer 2010 purely to watch movies, a fact he claims "shows that cinemas in the Kingdom have become important."
There are, however, still some strong reservations in Saudi Arabia against the opening of cinemas, which have been banned in the country for the past three decades.
Perhaps unsurprisingly, online video consumption is very popular in the Kingdom, with a Google executive last year claiming users in Saudi Arabia and its fellow Gulf states the UAE and Kuwait have the highest per capita YouTube viewing rate in the world.
Arabic video-on-demand services are a growing business, with services such as MBC's Shahid.net, Shofha.com, Arabia.tv and Istikana offering online content in a way akin to the US' Netflix and Hulu.
Internet protocol TV (IPTV) and satellite television also deliver movies straight to Saudi households; though international content is censored if deemed culturally and morally inappropriate.
Film is seen as increasingly important in the Gulf region, with prestigious annual film festivals now being held in Dubai, Abu Dhabi and Qatar, alongside events in more traditional centres of Arab media production such as Egypt and Lebanon.