Syria has ended its 31-year state monopoly on the import of feature films and plans to abolish customs duties on them, as well as exempting cinemas from taxation, the official press reported Tuesday.
The move, one more liberalizing step under the six-month-old regime of Syrian president Bashar al-Assad, is expected to improve the lamentable quality of films available in Syria's relatively few movie theatres and boost audiences.
The press said Assad had approved a decree removing the monopoly of the state film foundation imposed in 1969 on the import of commercial films.
The government had also drawn up a bill removing customs duties on film and modern cinema equipment and exempting cinemas from tax on revenue for the next eight years.
Syrian cinema-goers have been staying at home because of the generally poor quality of fare, mainly mind-numbing action movies. Damascus, with a population of four million, has only some 15 cinemas, but just five are properly equipped.
Only one cinema has been built since 1985, al-Sham, which shows new films that are occasionally worth seeing.
A Syrian movie-maker said that while Syria's cinemas had not changed in 30 years the country's film directors, such as Omar Amiralay and Mohammad Malas, were honored in international festivals.
The state film foundation was formed in 1963 to launch a national film industry. However it only produces one film a year instead of the five intended, while the private sector produces two or three. – AFP.
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