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Saudi Arabia Relinquishes Ban on Cinemas

The move is part of government-mandated social reforms

Riyadh%2C+Saudi+Arabia%2C+where+the+first+movie+in+35+years+was+shown.
Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, where the first movie in 35 years was shown.

Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, where the first movie in 35 years was shown.

Photo by Wikimedia Commons

Photo by Wikimedia Commons

Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, where the first movie in 35 years was shown.

Colin Fullinfaw, Copy Editor

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The Middle Eastern country of Saudi Arabia has eased restrictions on movie theatres, allowing a makeshift structure in the nation’s capital, Riyadh, to show The Emoji Movie, marking the first time many residents have seen a movie in public. The decision comes as the country is relaxing certain social restrictions.

Saudi Arabia is a deeply conservative country, with a dodgy history of human rights abuses. It prescribes the death penalty for seemingly trivial matters and is one of the few countries in the world to perform public executions. In the midst of all this, however, are sweeping social reforms to encourage the country’s citizens to embrace the 21st century. In late 2017, the Saudi royal government agreed to let women drive by themselves for the first time. It will take effect in June of this year.

Another effect of Saudi societal changes is the opening of select movie theatres and the screenings of movies for citizens. In December 2017, the government announced the opening of certain movie theatres, screening films the Kingdom deems appropriate and censoring others that are not worthy to show families. The government hopes the opening of Saudi movie theatres brings money to the country and better job opportunities for today’s and future generations. “By developing the broader cultural sector we will create new employment and training opportunities,” Minister of Culture and Information Awwad bin Saleh Alawwad said. Bin Saleh Alawwad went on to say it will “enrich the Kingdom’s entertainment options”.

Along with The Emoji Movie, Captain Underpants was also shown in the theatre. (Jon S/Flickr)

Of importance is the effect this proclamation will have on Saudi youth. They have never felt the joy of seeing the latest films flicker past them; they have never felt the warmth of viewing a satisfying movie ending. This improvement provides youth with the optimism and dreams every child feels. New job opportunities will be open to them, and more money will flow into the national economy. That money will be allotted by the government to different social projects, thereby modernizing the economy. More youth will grow up having dreams of being big name movie stars thanks to the initiatives the government is taking now for the betterment of their society.

Senior Studies teacher Mrs. Mary Meyer believes it is the right move, but it won’t be without its setbacks. “I do believe it is a step in the right direction, but it will be restrictive,” Meyer said. “The government is still going to censor movies, which sounds crazy to me,” Meyer said. While it might sound crazy, the particular branch of Islam the Saudi government follows is known for being ultra-conservative and particularly strict.

Opening up movie theatres to the population is a step in the right direction and with it will come changes. The current Saudi status quo will be unhinged, bringing in a new generation of children dreaming of going into once-unthinkable professions.

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Colin Fullinfaw - Copy Editor

Colin became a member of The Flightline in August of 2017. He is a senior this year and is involved in Cross Country. In his free time he enjoys spending time with his dog, Harley. You can email him at [email protected]

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