Public cinema houses, which are banned in Saudi Arabia, have got themselves an unlikely supporter. The mayor of Riyadh has said cinemas can be monitored by the government so that Islamic religious laws are not violated.
Until recently, speaking in public about the virtues of public cinemas remained a taboo in Saudi Arabia.
Officially banned in the kingdom, controversy erupted in the past few years after some citizens began calling for the opening of public cinema houses and others criticising their demands, Gulf News reported.
However, the debate got a boost after the mayor of Riyadh, Prince Abdul Aziz Bin Ayyaf, said the Saudi capital was in need of a public cinema. If such a cinema was to be opened in Riyadh, it would be monitored by the ministry of culture and information, like how it was done in Bahrain and Dubai.
A number of Saudi films have been shot in recent times in neighbouring countries, where Saudi citizens also often travel to watch movies. In 2009, the first Saudi film in three decades was screened at the Riyadh-based government-owned King Fahd Centre.
Only men and children were allowed to attend the film, obeying instructions from religious police who view such activities with concern because they believe going to the movies could lead to mixing of the sexes and violating Islamic values.
Saudi citizens watch films via satellite channels and DVDs.