‘Scales’ is set to make its theatrical release in cinemas across Saudi Arabia

Time: 11 November 2020

‘Scales’ was picked up by Saudi distributor Cinewaves Films. Supplied

DUBAI: Cinemas are slowly starting to reopen across the Middle East and there are a slew of new releases to look forward to. In particular, “Sayidat Al-Bahr,” or “Scales” in English, Saudi filmmaker Shahad Ameen’s black-and-white dystopian fantasy.

The film, which was created by Image Nation Abu Dhabi, was recently picked up by Saudi distributor Cinewaves Films, and is set to make its debut theatrical release in cinemas across Riyadh, Jeddah, Tabuk, Jizan and the Eastern Province on Nov. 12.

The fantasy film, made in the UAE, tells the story of Hayat, a young girl living in a village with a tradition of sacrificing female children to mysterious sea-dwelling creatures in the. When her time comes, she decides to break with tradition and forge her own path.

It premiered in 2019 at the Venice International Film Festival Critics’ Week, where it won the prestigious Verona Film Club award and has been shown at a number of international film festivals including in London, Los Angeles, Carthage, Cairo and Singapore where it was awarded Best Picture.

Ameen — known for her short film “Eye & Mermaid,” which premiered at the Dubai Film Festival in 2013 — said that the film is an artistic comment on patriarchal societies.

“‘Scales’ tells a visceral story about growing up as a woman in a patriarchal society, offering an allegorical take on a universal theme that will resonate with audiences around the world, Ameen said in a released statement at the time the film debuted.

Ameen attended the film’s socially-distanced premiere this week at AMC cinema in Riyadh, alongside the film’s stars Yagoub Al-Farhan and Basima Hajjar.

The private screening was followed by a live Q&A session between the cast of the film and a variety of well-established filmmakers, critics, media and cinema enthusiasts.

This article was first published in Arab News

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Where We Are Going Today: Vox Cinema

Time: September 07, 2019  

Vox Cinema in Jeddah is located at Red Sea Mall. (Supplied)
  • Vox Cinema in Jeddah is located at Red Sea Mall, which means cinemagoers can pop to the shops or enjoy a meal with friends or family before the film

JEDDAH: The opportunity to go to the cinema in the city where I was born, Jeddah, is a dream come true. As an avid movie-lover and cinemagoer whenever traveling outside of Saudi Arabia, I feel privileged to be able to visit movie theaters in my own country, thanks to the many reforms taking place in the Kingdom.
I can book tickets via my online account, calmly selecting seats and show times without the stress of delaying others in queues at cinema box offices.
Vox Cinema in Jeddah is located at Red Sea Mall, which means cinemagoers can pop to the shops or enjoy a meal with friends or family before the film.
My first experience with Vox Cinema was a screening of Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse which I watched with my younger brother. I remember being so excited as I found my seat. The halls were clean, the seats comfortable, and the staff friendly and accommodating.
As the movie began, I found myself immersed in the whole experience which was enhanced through the surround-sound system.
Since then, I have been to several more showings in the IMAX and kids’ theaters, and I am yet to be disappointed.

This article was first published in Arab News

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Second movie theater opens in Riyadh

Time: May 02, 2018

Saudis pose with movie characters during the inauguration of the first VOX Cinema at Riyadh park mall on Monday. The multiplex theater will feature four screens. Marvel’s Black Panther film was the first commercial film to be publicly screened in Saudi Arabia in more than 35 years last month. — EPA

This article was first published Saudi Gazette

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A Saudi night out at the cinema

Time: April 28, 2018

RIYADH: My husband and I took our boys to watch the world premiere of “Avengers: Infinity War”… in Riyadh! I honestly never thought I’d say this, yet Thursday night was one of the most memorable nights out.

Before entering the new AMC cinema in King Abdullah Financial District, we passed the security check.

They gave us wrist bracelets, which had written on them in Arabic: “I’m at the movies, and you aren’t!” A humorous marketing attempt to entice people to come to the cinema.

The building itself is impressive: Hgh ceilings and modern facilities over four levels.

“It’s like we’re in Dubai,” remarked one moviegoer to their companion.

The design of the cinema building inside-out is outstanding: Such architectural elegance is befitting the historic reopening of cinemas in Saudi, after 35 years in the dark.

While Marvel’s “Black Panther” was the first film to open in the new AMC cinema on April 18, followed by sell-out screenings, on Thursday the Kingdom got its first actual new release, another Marvel movie predicted to set box-office records worldwide: “Avengers: Infinity War.”


Sounds of laughter

Once entering the building, we were welcomed by the buttery smell of popcorn and sounds of laughter and giggles. It was a night out at the cinema, after all.

Soft drinks could be bought at a stand alongside butter and caramel popcorn. People queued in a straight line, waiting for their snacks. The cinema columns carried quotes from famous movies. One read: “I’m gonna make him an offer he can’t refuse.” (“The Godfather,” 1972.)

A moviegoer who wanted to remain anonymous said this was her first time to attend the cinema. “I’ve never been to the movies before or traveled abroad,” she said.

“I’m extremely excited and so thrilled that my brother brought me here today.”

The young lady was taking selfies and pictures of the building while her brother bought refreshments and popcorn.

This was not the first movie night for Saudi Arabia, of course.

From my parents’ recollections, 40 years ago, families and singles would go out for a night of fun and watch movies that would screen in the open air in downtown Jeddah Al-Balad. Segregation at that time was not the norm.

Simple chairs were arranged in front of a white sheet or whitewashed wall with the film projected onto them. Egyptian and Indian films were aired and laughs could be heard from across the street.


Fond memories

The Al-Attas theater located in Obhur was considered the fancy screening venue: It had air-conditioning and families opted to go there together, even though it was a bit more expensive.

As my children’s 80-year-old grandmother, Madiha Jouharji, exclaimed: “Finally, the movies are back again. I have fond memories of going as a young girl.”

The reopening of the cinemas is just a reminder of what we had and what we will bring back; entertainment for the whole family to enjoy together.

And that is just what I experienced on Thursday: People living in Riyadh enjoying a film, interacting together and having an all round good time. With no rules broken, no moral ethics hindered. Irrefutable proof that we can live normal lives and enjoy basic entertainment.

One of the most incredible moments was the interactions inside the theater: Laughter, applause and all-around joy. We sat next to a lovely couple, newlyweds, who held hands and laughed together. The lady wore a niqab, her husband a thobe and headdress.

While on our other side were two young boys in jeans and T-shirts. I thought to myself: what a wonderfully versatile city we live in.

After the movie, people rushed out excitedly, talking about what a great movie it was. “It was very well organized,” said Sara Al-Saadoun. “Never in a million years would I have thought to say that I’m going to the movies in Riyadh.” I couldn’t agree more. Never.

While leaving the theater, we discussed the film and each had their opinion. My 14-year-old kept analyzing the cliffhanger ending, while my 11-year-old, who slept through half the movie, asked if we could go again the next day because he missed half of it.

The reopening of cinemas is part of Vision 2030. It’s a vision that decidedly brings together families. It’s a vision that implements the importance of spending time together and not apart. And in that sense, it’s mission accomplished.

In another 40 years, my kids will be able to tell the tale to their grandchildren, about how they were among the first people to attend the reopening of the cinema in Saudi Arabia.

This article was first published Arab News

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When watching films was pure family fun: An Arab News veteran looks back at what movie night used to be

Time: April 28, 2018

JEDDAH: Lately, there have been many gasps by the Western media over the Saudi government’s decision to allow movie theaters and cinemas in the Kingdom.

Ever since Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman ushered in a more tolerant, acceptable and modern era, there has been a sea change in Saudi society.

The fear of the harbingers of darkness were put to rest when, despite shrieks of hellfire and damnation and the wrath of the Almighty, nothing happened. Art, culture and music festivals were held in an atmosphere of total propriety. There were no unwanted incidents as Saudi men and women, families, young and old, mingled and behaved like any normal spectator would around the globe.

As far as movies are concerned, they are not new phenomena: To people like me and to senior citizens in Jeddah, Makkah, Taif and even Madinah, movies were shown. My uncle visited Riyadh in 1956 and saw a movie there.

Aramco had its theater in Dhahran. Petromin had a weekly movie show on Kilo 4, the old Makkah road which had a mixed congregation. The most famous was the Jamjoom Theater. It was owned by Fua Jamjoom, a Jeddawi with a cavalier attitude who dared those who came to close the theater. Tickets for an air-conditioned hall were priced at SR5. Non-air-conditioned seats cost SR3.

Movie-goers at Jamjoom Theater would always grab a bite at Shawarma Shakir, either before the cinema or after. It was a famous shawarma joint that many enjoyed, along with refreshments. Across the city, near the seaport and in the Hindawiya district, there were several other makeshift theaters which showed both Arabic and English films. The area would be sprayed with “Raid” mosquito repellant. At the Jamjoom center, I saw many movies. My mom was a great fan of James Bond, and we saw several ones: “From Russia with Love,” “Goldfinger” and “Dr. No.”

I remember my mother crying during “Love Story” when Ali MacGraw’s character became ill. We saw “Deliverance,” starring Jon Voight, the father of Angelina Jolie. And of course many Arabic ones, especially those with Ismail Yaseen, the famous Egyptian comedian.

Al-Attas Hotel also had a hall where we used to go to see movies with my cousins. It was a normal life. Music and culture flourished. At the Jeddah radio station where I worked part time, we were our own disc jockeys.

I saw the play “My Fair Lady” in Jeddah, where the audience was entertained in an almost Haymarket-type of presentation. The famous Moroccan singer Abdelwahab Al-Doukkali performed a concert live on stage at the Ministry of Education hall in Al-Baghdadiah district in Jeddah. Yes, the Ministry of Education!

He sang his classic song “Marsool Al Hobb” (Messenger of Love) to an enthusiastic crowd. As Mary Hopkin would say: “Those were the days.” And then a pall of gloom and darkness descended in 1980. However, I do not wish to focus on that period but am stating now that this new change needed a political will and a person who would pick up the cudgel and say “enough is enough.”

The Saudi people are like others around the globe. They want to be a part of that world culture, music, art and beauty. And Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman has opened that door.

This article was first published Arab News

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Saudi Arabia getting region’s first 4DX theaters

Time: April 27, 2018

ISLAMABAD: South Korea-based CJ 4DPLEX has signed a new partnership with Cinemacity to open three locations in Riyadh and other major Saudi cities by the end of 2018, according to Variety.
Saudi Gazette reported that Al-Qasr Mall will be the first CJ 4DPLEX multiplex in Riyadh, featuring 19 screens. Cinemacity’s parent company, Xclusive Cinemas SAL Holding, says it will operate 116 screens by the end of 2018 in five countries including Jordan, Lebanon, Syria, the United Arab Emirates, and Saudi Arabia.
4DX is like 3D on steroids. It is an interactive experience, one in which audiences’ seats move along with the on-screen action auditoriums have a variety of synchronized special effects, such as rain, wind, fog, and various scents, according to the report.
“With this upcoming debut in Saudi Arabia and further expansion in this region with Cinemacity, we will reach to the Saudi’s untapped market and lead cinema revolution in progressing immersive cinema into the future,” Byung Hwan Choi, CEO of CJ 4DPLEX, said in a statement.
Earlier this week, CJ 4DPLEX announced it was adding 145 4DX screens around the world through a partnership with Cineworld, the parent company of Regal.

This article was first published Arab News

World’s first 4D cinema firm signs deal for Saudi debut

Time: April 26, 2018

The world’s first 4D cinema company said on Thursday that it has signed a new agreement with Cinemacity to enter the Saudi market following the lifting of a decades-old ban.

Through this deal, three 4DX locations will open in the country’s capital city, Riyadh, and other major Saudi cities by the end of this year, CJ 4DPLEX said in a statement.

Al Qasr Mall will be the first multiplex in Riyadh, featuring 19 screens. It is expected to see 750,000 admissions during the first year of operation, the South Korean company added.

Cinemacity’s parent company, Xclusive Cinemas SAL Holding, will operate 116 screens by the end of 2018 in five countries including Jordan, Lebanon, Syria, the UAE, and Saudi Arabia.

“Here at Cinemacity, we strive to be at the forefront of entertainment excellence, providing our guests with a top tier cinema-going experience on all fronts. We are proud to partner with 4DX and provide patrons with 4DX’s state-of-the-art immersive entertainment systems that will distinguish us in the market, and add to our brand as a whole,” said Karim Atassi, vice president of business development of Cinemacity.

“With this upcoming debut in Saudi Arabia and further expansion in this region with Cinemacity, we will reach to the Saudi’s untapped market and lead cinema revolution in progressing immersive cinema into the future,” added Byung Hwan Choi, CEO of CJ 4DPLEX.

CJ 4DPLEX is headquartered in Seoul with international offices in Los Angeles and Beijing.


This article was first published  Arabian Business


Movie tickets at $35 could become norm in Saudi Arabian market

SOURCE: Arabian Business

25 Apr 2018

Tickets for day two sold out in less than a minute, with men and women sitting together in the theatre

Film fans in Saudi Arabia could end paying $35 (SAR131) for movie tickets – including taxes – according to the head of the US firm AMC Entertainment Holdings.

Demand at $20 a ticket was so strong at a theatre in Riyadh run by AMC Entertainment Holdings that chief executive officer Adam Aron was predicting far higher prices by summer, when the company will complete refurbishments that include new seating.

“I’ll bet you we are closer to $30 to $35,” Aron said Monday in Las Vegas at CinemaCon, the industry convention for the National Association of Theatre Owners.

He said men and women sat together in Riyadh and that tickets for day two sold out in less than a minute.

The convention kicked off with a panel on Saudi Arabia’s decision to lift a 35-year ban on theatres and the opportunities there. Andrew Cripps, president of international theatrical distribution for 20th Century Fox, flagged concerns about a 25 percent tax on entertainment, which he described as one of the highest in the region.

He also said that on opening night, some moviegoers in the kingdom were recording what was on screen, in this case, Marvel’s “Black Panther.”

“Hopefully that is not a habit,” Cripps said. “There are lots of issues to flesh out and discuss but overriding sentiment is that it’s a tremendously exciting opportunity.”

Fox’s animated tale about a bull “Ferdinand” is likely to be the first Fox film to hit Saudi Arabia, Cripps said. Aron said Warner Bros.’ “Rampage” featuring Dwayne Johnson had cleared censors and Disney’s “Avengers: Infinity War” is going through that process now.

This article was first published in the Arabian Business


Ferdinand the Bull set to charge into Saudi’s second cinema

Time: April 25, 2018

Cameron Mitchell, CEO of Vox Cinemas, has confirmed to The National that Vox will open Saudi Arabia’s second public cinema in “around a week”, and that Ferdinand is expected to be the next film to go on public release in the kingdom.

Speaking ahead of the UAE premiere of Avengers: Infinity War at Dubai’s Mall of the Emirates on Tuesday night, Mr Mitchell said: “The cinema is basically now ready to open. We’ve got a great location in a family entertainment centre and there’ll be four screens at the new cinema, including Saudi’s only IMAX.

“We don’t have an exact opening date yet as we’re still working with the authorities to make sure everything is correct, but we expect it to be probably in around a week’s time.”

Mr Mitchell added that Ferdinand, the animated tale of a peace-loving bull who escapes his life in the bullring, is currently in the hands of Saudi censors, and that he does not expect any problems with the film being cleared for public viewing. The family cartoon has already been a huge success across the region, including in the UAE, where it opened in December.


Looking ahead, Mr Mitchell said his team are working closely with Saudi authorities around programming, and he expects to focus largely on new releases. “We will feature some older classics, but we think new films are really the way forward,” he said. “You have to remember that a lot of Saudis regularly come to the UAE or elsewhere to go to the cinema, so we’d anticipate a limited demand for older films.

“I can’t name specific films just yet as this is still very early days, but we don’t expect too many difficulties in terms of what we can show – the biggest films regionally tend to be family films and big ticket action movies, and there are very few issues with those in terms of respecting local culture.”

Mr Mitchell added that the addition of 30 million Saudis to the regional audience would have huge benefits, not just for Vox’s bottom line, but also for cinema in the region as a whole.

“If you look at Australia, with a population of only about 24 million, that’s the world’s ninth biggest market for cinema. This is 30 million on top of the healthy existing market in the region. Look at the Avengers event we’re running tonight across six countries – add Saudi into that too and we’re suddenly a much bigger proposition in terms of our importance as a market to the studios too.”

Saudi Arabia’s first cinema since a ban was introduced four decades ago, Riyadh’s brand new AMC Cinema, opened last week with a gala screening of Black Panther.

 This article was first published The National

Rules for screening and classifying film content approved

SOURCE: Saudi Gazette

Time: April 24, 2018

RIYADH – The Saudi General Commission for Audiovisual Media has approved the law for screening and classifying content for films to be shown in cinema theaters in the Kingdom.

Minister of Culture and Information Awwad Al-Awwad is the chairman of the board of directors of the authority.

According to the new rules, the screening and classifying of film content include six categories depending on the age of the audience.

Children under the age of 12 years will be barred from watching movies that contain scenes that are not fit for their age. According to the regulations, they will not be allowed to enter theaters unless they are accompanied by an adult guardian.

The directorate of the authority confirmed earlier that one of the goals of promoting the film sector is to protect the public from inappropriate content and support the production of positive films.