Saudi Arabia Says It Will Allow Cinemas After Decades-Long Ban

The first cinemas could be ready for business as soon as March, next year, after the General Commission for Audiovisual Media started the process for licensing cinemas in the Kingdom.

Saudi Arabia is lifting the ban on cinemas from March 2018, This was a part of the young king's push for social reform.

The modernist decision is part of bin Salman's and the government's initiative Vision 2030, which seeks to broaden their country's sources of revenue outside of the oil industry.

A statement issued by the ministry of information voiced hope that this move will develop the economy of the cultural and media sector in general and provide job opportunities to Saudis as well as help them acquire new skills.

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But authorities appear to be shrugging off the threat.Saudi filmmakers have long argued that a ban on cinemas does not make sense in the age of YouTube.Saudi films have been making waves overseas, using the internet to circumvent distribution channels and sometimes the stern gaze of state censors.

The kingdom said there will be 300 cinemas by 2030, although it was not clear whether most major Hollywood, Bollywood and Arabic releases would be shown and how heavily edited the content will be. Dubai-based mall operator Majid Al Futtaim, which owns VOX Cinemas, said it wanted to open the first movie theatre there. It was hardliners such as these who played a leading role in shutting down theaters in the 1980s.

In January, the kingdom's highest-ranking cleric blasted the "depravity" of movie theaters, saying they would corrupt morals. Recently, Saudi Arabia has lifted Ban of Women Driving and Women Voting in 2017.

Saudi Arabia began closing movie theaters after it embraced an extremely conservative interpretation of Islam in 1979.

  • Sonia Alvarado