As Saudi Arabia loosens restrictions put into place to combat the COVID-19 pandemic, the Kingdom is witnessing a slow return to business as usual, from the relaunch of tourism-related activities to the reopening of cinemas, which was announced this week. The General Commission for Audiovisual Media (GCAM) released a statement saying that theatres will once again be operational, and will comply to a strict set of measures to ensure the safety of moviegoers.
GCAM published a set of guidelines for all cinema theatre operators to adhere to covering a range of protocols, from complete sanitization of spaces, to how to allocate seating within the theater, to social distancing in areas of high traffic such as entrances and concession stands. Within the theaters, social distancing measures will also be in place, requiring two seats to be left empty in every direction between moviegoers. Family members are permitted to sit together but must also keep at least two meters distance.
Most Saudi cinemas are reopen for bookings again after their initial shutdown on March 11 due to COVID-19. Safety procedures and measures are in place based on government direction. pic.twitter.com/ps0xmJP58F— About Her (@AboutHerOFCL) June 23, 2020
Cinemas will also be required to place new signage within their spaces, giving customers clear indications of where social distancing is needed and how much space they need to give between each other, set at 1.5 to 2 meters apart. In addition, the commission is encouraging people to get their tickets online or via apps, to avoid lengthy queues at the cinema, and theater staff must adopt preventive measures such as wearing face masks and gloves.
A return of cinemas has been welcomed by many across Saudi Arabia and this year will mark the third year that public cinemas have been opened, following a landmark decision in late 2017 to allow them to operate, almost four decades since the ban was put into place. Rescinding the cinema ban is in line with Vision 2030, the Kingdom’s social and economic reform program spearheaded by Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Salman.