Saudi Arabia Is Opening Its First Independent Cinema

Coming soon…

The opening date is set for Saudi Arabia’s first-ever independent theater. Hayy Cinema, a brainchild of Art Jameel, the independent organization that supports artists and nurtures creative communities, is opening its doors to the public on Dec. 6. Situated in Jeddah’s Hayy Jameel, the permanent two-floor space designed by Bricklab comes four years after the Kingdom opened its first public cinema following a 35 year countrywide ban.  

For its opening, the independent cinema has joined forces with the Red Sea International Film Festival, which curated an expansive program that includes Saudi, Arab, and international features, shorts and documentaries, including a retrospective of five newly restored films by Egyptian icon Youssef Chahine – one of the Arab world’s most internationally celebrated filmmakers.

 “There is no better way to celebrate Hayy Jameel’s first anniversary than with the launch of the much-anticipated Hayy Cinema,” said Antonia Carver, Director, Art Jameel. “This is Saudi’s first bespoke independent picturehouse, developed with the intent to nurture the local film scene – not only filmmakers, but also the audiences who appreciate them,” she added in a released statement. 

In addition to a 168-seat theatre and a 30-seat community screening room, Hayy Cinema also features a multimedia library and an educational space, which will play host to exhibitions throughout the year, kicking off with a  thoroughly-researched and rare archival exhibition that highlights renowned photographer Gamal Fahmy’s contribution to the revolutionary force of filmmaking in the region via never-before-seen photographs, a collection of personal items, vintage cameras, and various ephemera.

“Via a year-round program of films from Saudi, the region and the world, as well as talks, exhibitions and film festivals held across its various community spaces, the cinema becomes a convivial site of convening, opening up a whole new world of storytelling and imagination,” shared Carver, adding: “We believe that Hayy Cinema’s focus on presenting and documenting the great breadth of global cinema, and in tracing the history of cinemas and films from the Gulf, complements the blockbusters of Saudi’s fast-growing commercial scene and government-led industry initiatives. With Hayy Arts being a museum space for the visual arts and Hayy Cinema for the moving image, both anchor Hayy Jameel, grounding the complex as Jeddah’s home for creative expression.”

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