Saudi Arabia has decided to lift its decades-long ban on cinemas, as part of a series of social reforms to “modernise” the oil-rich kingdom.
Saudi cinemas will be issued with licenses at the start of 2018, the Ministry of Culture announced yesterday, which will end a 35-year ban on the screening of films in public.
Minister of Culture and Information, Awwad bin Saleh Alawwad, said in a statement: “As the industry regulator, the General Commission for Audio-visual Media has started the process for licensing cinemas in the kingdom.
“We expect the first cinemas to open in March 2018.”
Movie theatres were shut down in the 1980’s when numerous prominent Saudi scholars deemed watching Western and Egyptian Arab movies as sinful.
However, since Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman ascended to power under his father, King Salman, he has pushed for greater “social reforms” such as lifting a ban on women driving, bringing back music concerts and other forms of entertainment to fulfil the desires of the country’s overwhelming young population.
The 32-year-old heir to the throne has also sought ways to boost local spending and create jobs amid lower oil prices.
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Finances have also been at the centre of the reforms too, as the country looks at ways to gain more revenue and diversify its economy.