Egyptian Actor Ashraf Abdel Baky - File Egyptian Actor Ashraf Abdel Baky - File

Ashraf Abdel Baky to establish ‘Saudi Arabia Theater’

Fri, Mar. 23, 2018
CAIRO – 23 March 2018: Famed Egyptian actor Ashraf Abdel Baky has started establishing his new artistic project entitled “Saudi Arabia Theater” in Jeddah with the support of the Saudi General Entertainment Authority.

The project comes as part of the cultural openess project adopted by Saudi Crown Prince Mohamed Bin Salman.


Saudi Crown Prince’s previous liberal decisions

Bin_Salman
Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, Saudi Women and Saudi theatre – Photo complied by Egypt Today.

Bin Salman has taken plenty of steps to transfer the kingdom, which was famous for its ultra-conservative culture, to a new culturally and socially open country. He has already eased the rules pertaining to the separation of the sexes.

The Saudi Kingdom gave women the right to start their own businesses without the approval of a male relative. Rules have also been relaxed about women walking in public without a male guardian. At the beginning of February, the Shura Council, the advisory body to the monarchy, demanded the country’s sports authority to establish a Saudi agency for women’s sport.

Saudi Minister for Culture and Information Awwad bin Saleh Al Awwad previously announced that he expected the theaters to be opened in March. The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia started the screening of international children’s movies on Wednesday, January 17 in Jeddah.

Last December, the Saudi government started to issue licenses for the establishment of cinema halls for the first time in three decades; despite this, lifting the ban has been opposed by powerful religious officials, who say that films can be immoral or “open doors to evil” as per their description. This decision strongly reflects Saudi Arabia’s desire to kick off its cinematic activities.

Saudi media previously announced that “The Emoji” and “Captain Underpants” were the first two movies selected for screening. Riyadh hosted the screening of three other movies: “The Son of Bigfoot”, “Smurfs” and “Paddington 2”.

“The establishment of Saudi cinemas is the first step towards a strong Saudi cinema industry in the coming years,” renowned Saudi actor Mohamed Bakhsh previously said about the decision in an interview with Okaz newspaper.

Bakhsh stressed that Saudi film production needs a lot of funding and support to compete with the international cinema industry and to support emerging Saudi talents. Bakhsh linked the promotion of a real cinema industry with the establishment of a cinema base that exists in all the countries around the world.

“We must have a strong cinema base through the establishment of cinema institutes to enhance Saudi artists’ talents, especially since the decision of opening cinema halls needs cinema production, because most of the countries around the world consider cinema as an independent and important industry,” he added.

Bakhsh previously demanded the establishment of a Saudi media city as the base of a strong Saudi cinema industry. U.S. media has paid great attention to the social and cultural change initiated by Saudi Arabia in recent months.

The Washington Post previously said that the kingdom's conservative government has become an art sponsor, funding concerts for western celebrities such as Yanni, and promoting comic festivals and book fairs.

Bin Salman’s previous decisions were mainly dedicated to ease restrictions on women. Of his most prominent reforms is the lifting of the driving ban on women. Uber in Saudi Arabia is now looking to recruit female drivers. Bin Salman also gave Saudi women the permission to attend the country’s national day last September in Riyadh. Additionally, women in Saudi Arabia were allowed to attend a professional football match for the first time in the country’s history on Friday, January 1.

Saudi General Entertainment Authority Chairman Ahmed Al-Khatib previously announced the establishment of Saudi Arabia’s first ever opera house.

“The Saudi cultural openness era has started and we will continue until we reach the highest standards in the world,” declared Khatib on Thursday. Khatib did not state if women will be allowed to attend the new opera shows or not. He added that the band Maroon 5 and the acrobatics show Cirque du Soleil are some of the the 5,000 acts planned for 2018 alone.

Khatib declared this decision while revealing the authority’s entertainment calendar in the Saudi capital Riyadh. He recounted that Saudi Arabia allocated $64 billion to be fully dedicated to the entrainment sector for the next 10 years. This decision means that “The Marriage of Figaro” or the “Barber of Seville” could soon be soaring through the rafters of the new Riyadh opera house. Such an announcement comes as a part of Saudi Arabia’s recent series of cultural openness decisions issued by the Saudi Crown Prince Mohamed Bin Salman.


 
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