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Saudi movie viewers wearing face masks to help curb the spread of the coronavirus. Image Credit: AP

Abu Dhabi: Cinemas in Riyadh celebrated the easing of COVID-19 restrictions in Saudi Arabia with the premiere of new film ‘Najd’.

Set in the 1950s and produced by Saudi-based Location Production, ‘Najd’ is one of the first Saudi Arabian films to be screened in the Kingdom.

Directed by Samir Aref, with Khaled Al Rajeh coming on as producer and writer, the film was shot in a number of heritage spots in the country, including the Sodos and Al Aynah areas, as well as some locations in Kuwait.

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A scene from 'Najd'. Image Credit: Supplied

Al Rajeh said the film revolves around Najd, a central region of Saudi Arabia, and the 150-year-old Masmak Fort, located in the heart of Riyadh, in the city’s old quarter. A vast clay and mud-brick citadel that witnessed the rise of a kingdom, Masmak Fort serves as a proud reminder of Saudi Arabia’s history.

Its capture by King Abdul Aziz Ibn Abdul Rahman Ibn Faisal Al Saud in 1902 marked the first step towards the consolidation of the Kingdom under the Saud name and laid the foundation of the nation as we know it today.

The story is about a love affair in the popular market. The events and the story develop between the 1950s and the modern era in 2018 with the Vision of 2030.

Hayat Al Fahad, Ali Al Sab’a, Amira Mohammed, Zahra Al Kharji, Majed Matarab, Mohammed Al Kanhal, Emtanan Mohammed, Nasser Al Rabian, and Mohammed Haridi will star in the film.

Return to normalcy

Saudi Arabia reopened cinemas as the “return to normalcy” stage of the Kingdom’s reopening plan came into effect last month. It, however, implemented strict coronavirus protocols, according to the General Commission for Audiovisual Media (GCAM).

The GCAM issued a detailed guide with strict COVID-19 protocols:

- Employees must wear masks or face coverings and gloves when interacting with customers. Their temperatures must be checked daily before the start of each shift.

- Moviegoers must wear a mask or face covering. Anyone not wearing a mask, should not be allowed to enter the cinema.

- It’s preferable to provide thermal screening cameras at all entry points of a cinema.

- Temperature checks must be conducted at all main entrances, and each individual should be asked about respiratory symptoms such as coughing or difficulty breathing.

- Any cinemagoer whose temperature is higher than normal or exhibits respiratory symptoms should be prevented from entering the cinema.

- Any moviegoer who is suspected of being infected with coronavirus should be banned from entry and their information and contact details should be collected and reported immediately to the health authorities.

- Social distancing (1.5 to 2 meters) must be maintained in waiting areas, entrances, ticket stalls, food and beverage selling outlets and bathrooms.

- Ensuring that seats in each theatre are allotted to maintain social distance by leaving two seats empty between every two individuals.

- Members of a family can sit next to each other and empty seats should be kept between them and other customers.

Social distancing

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Film fans at the opening of a cinema in Riyadh in 2018. (Picture used for illustrative purpose.) Image Credit: Reuters

The capacity of each cinema was halved to ensure social distancing between two individuals or between two families. This would be predetermined at the time of ticket purchase.

Patrons are also being encouraged to purchase movie tickets online and through mobile apps to avoid crowds.

Other precautionary measures that apply to restaurants and cafes will also apply to food and beverage outlets at the cinemas.

Employees who exhibit flu-like symptoms will not be allowed to work or enter the cinema until they are free of symptoms according to a doctor’s report.

In case an employee tests positive for COVID-19, the cinema must shut down and suspend all operations until complete disinfection processes are carried out and the theatres are properly ventilated. Other employees must be tested and isolated.