Saudi Arabia lifts ban on cinemas

Rotana's 'Menahi' set to open on Dec. 9

Auds in Saudi Arabia can finally go to the movies again.

“Menahi,” financed and produced by Saudi Prince Waleed bin Talal‘s film shingle Rotana, is set to become the first film to be released for public viewing since cinemas were banned by religious clerics in the 1970s.

Pic will open on two screens in Jeddah and Taef on Dec. 9. A private screening will also take place at the Dammam cinema club.

Prince Waleed’s close connections with the Saudi royal family, led by the modernizing King Abdullah, were key to convincing authorities in Mecca to give the opening their blessing.

The pic’s producers are wary of drawing too much attention, however, in case of a backlash by hardliners.

“We’re worried that some of the conservatives might try to filibuster the opening,” says Rotana general manager Ayman Halawani. “But we’re still moving ahead with it.”

The $2 million pic, helmed by Ayman Makram, is the first bigscreen incarnation of popular Saudi thesp Fayez Al-Maliki‘s TV persona Menahi, a naive, humble farmer who often finds himself involved in comic escapades. It centers on Menahi’s involvement in a get-rich-quick scheme and traveling from his tribal homeland to the booming metropolis of Dubai.

Pic has already opened in neighboring Bahrain, Qatar and Kuwait.

Saudi film execs have been inching their way toward this day for many months. In May this year, the Dammam Literary Club held the the conservative kingdom’s first official film fest.

In July 2006, the privately financed Jeddah Visual Festival — which avoided the term “film” in any of its publicity — was held in front of a specially invited audience. Jeddah organizers held a soph edition last year.

More News

  • Michael JacksonMichael Jackson Concert, Los Angeles,

    Michael Jackson Estate Issues Statement of Support on 10th Anniversary of His Death

    Michael Jackson’s estate issued a statement Monday in support of the late pop star on the 10th anniversary of his death amid an ongoing battle over his reputation and legacy. The statement described Jackson as a “gifted artist and extraordinary humanitarian” whose continued influence in dance, fashion, music and art has made him “more important [...]

  • Diana Rigg, Terence Stamp Join Edgar

    Diana Rigg, Terence Stamp Join Edgar Wright’s ‘Last Night in Soho’ (EXCLUSIVE)

    Edgar Wright’s “Last Night in Soho” has rounded out its cast, with veteran actors Diana Rigg and Terence Stamp among the stars signing on for the latest movie from the “Baby Driver” director. Stamp can currently be seen in Netflix hit “Murder Mystery” with Adam Sandler and Jennifer Aniston. Rigg’s recent roles include Olenna Tyrell [...]

  • Zhang Zhao LeEco film

    Zhang Zhao, Chief of Le Chuang (Formerly Le Vision Pictures), Resigns

    Zhang Zhao, the chairman and CEO of Le Chuang Entertainment, formerly known as Le Vision Pictures, has resigned for “personal reasons,” the firm said.    Zhang’s resignation was announced in a statement posted to the firm’s official social media account Monday, which thanked him for his service. “Le Chuang will carry on as before, using [...]

  • Bob Berney

    Bob Berney to Leave Amazon Studios' Head of Marketing and Distribution Position

    Bob Berney, Amazon Studios’ head of marketing and distribution, is stepping down, Variety has confirmed. Berney was hired by Amazon in 2015 and recently reached the end of his four-year contract. His last day will be Friday. During his time at amazon, the film veteran oversaw a number of successful films including “Manchester by the [...]

  • NEW YORK, NY – JUNE, 24:

    LGBTQ Stars Honored at Variety’s Power of Pride Celebration

    New York City felt the full power of pride on Monday, as Variety celebrated its inaugural issue devoted to the annual recognition of LGBTQ people worldwide. At an intimate gathering at lower east side Manhattan hotel The Orchid, rooftop bar Mr. Purple hosted Variety’s cover stars and luminaries for cocktails and the unveiling of the [...]

  • WWE

    WWE and PP Sports Extend China Partnership

    WWE and PP Sports have signed a new multi-year agreement that will keep WWE programming airing live in Mandarin in China. In the past three years of the partnership, PP Sports has delivered more than 300 episodes of WWE programming. PP Sports will offer “Raw,” “Smackdown” and the WWE Network as a subscription VOD service [...]

  • Joel Silver Exits Silver Pictures

    Joel Silver Exits Silver Pictures

    Top Hollywood producer Joel Silver has exited his production company Silver Pictures, Variety has confirmed. “Joel Silver recently indicated that he intends to leave Silver Pictures and go out on his own,” Hal Sadoff, a former ICM Partners agent who joined Silver Pictures several years ago as CEO, said in a statement. “We are working [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content