Saudi Arabia’s cultural arena received a shot in the arm with robust growth and overall surge. This is in cultural, literary and entertainment activities; according to a recent report released by the Ministry of Culture, headed by Minister Prince Badr Bin Abdullah Bin Farhan.
The major highlight of the report was that of ushering in a new era in the entertainment industry; with around four million viewers for cinemas. Cinema, in itself, became a new burgeoning industry after cinema theaters officially opened at a commercial level two years ago.
The report showed that salient features and statistical figures; encompassing all sectors and activities in the cultural sector, have been monitored for the first time in the Kingdom’s history.
These include films and visual shows, theater and performing arts, libraries, architecture and design, language, literature, heritage. Especially natural heritage, books and publishing, visual arts, museums, food and culinary arts. Besides, music, fashion, archaeological and cultural sites, and finally festivals and cultural events.
Qualitative and numerical leap
Festivals and cultural events in Saudi Arabia have made a qualitative and numerical leap in recent years. Ending the focus only on the heritage aspect; their growth gained momentum with the active participation of various government bodies and agencies. In addition to ensuring the involvement of the private sector.
The report released statistics that showed that 55 percent of citizens and expatriates attended at least one event or festival during the past 12 months. The number of events held in 90 Saudi cities during the Eid Al-Fitr season of 2019 reached about 350. The total number of visitors to the 2019 edition of the Souk Okaz Festival stood also is at 498,185.
Though Saudi music started evolving into its modern shape at the hands of pioneer artists ever since 1950s and1960s; it witnessed a qualitative paradigm shift in the level of celebration of music in the Kingdom only in recent years, featuring the robust growth of amateurs and independent youth bands.
There are currently more than 950 members in Saudi musical bands; and over 5.5 million listeners of music through various flourishing outlets in the Kingdom.
The International Prize for Arabic Fiction
In the field of literature; 604 books published in various literary genres within the year of 2018-2019, apart from publication of 161 fictions. This gave fiction an acclaimed position on the throne of literature publishing.
Moreover, three Saudi novelists bagged the International Prize for Arabic Fiction since its foundation; which is the most important prize in the field of Arabic fiction.
With the return of cinemas to Saudi Arabia and revival of film activities recently; keeping pace with Saudi Arabia’s directives toward supporting recreational activities, the number of multiplex theaters in the Kingdom’s private commercial complexes reached a dozen.
Also, the total number of cinema viewers reached four million since its inception in April 2018 until the end of 2019. The number of Saudi films classified as short and long feature films and documentaries reached 101 last year alone.
In a general sense, as theater is considered as “the father of the arts,” playwriting began in the Kingdom as early as in 1932 and was included in the activities of the Ministry of Education at that time.
The fast changes that coincided with the launching of the Kingdom’s Vision 2030 have also contributed to a surge in the number of theatrical performances.
This manifested in the accelerated activities of the Saudi Arabian Society for Culture and Arts (SASCA) and the General Entertainment Authority that are instrumental in staging of 155 plays.
Record number of international awards
The number of people who came to watch these plays until the end of 2019 stood at 94,565, while the Saudi Theater won a record number of 300 international awards through its participation abroad.
The entry of printing presses into the Arabian Peninsula dates back to the end of the 18th century. In the middle of the 20th century; the printing presses constituted the infrastructure for the Saudi journalism apart from spearheading a modern movement in the printing and publishing industry.
The volume of the publishing market in Saudi Arabia is SR4.5 billion in terms of sales. There were a total of 7,687 new books deposited at Riyadh’s King Fahd National Library in 2018-2019; in its capacity as the center for the registration of intellectual work. The books translated into Arabic out of the total deposited books reached about 18.26 percent, according to the report.