Saudi Arabia Is Finally Lifting Its Ban on Movie Theaters

Minister for Culture and Information Awwad bin Saleh Alawwad said in a statement, "As the industry regulator, the General Commission for Audiovisual Media has started the process for licensing cinemas in the Kingdom".

The Saudi Ministry of Culture and Information said this week that it would lift the ban on cinemas, which has been in place for more than 35 years, by March 2018.

Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman has been overturning long-running social norms in the country since coming to power in 2015, including allowing women to drive cars.

In the 1980s, movie theatres in Saudi Arabia were banned, considered a threat to religious and cultural identity. Dubai-based mall operator Majid Al Futtaim, which owns VOX Cinemas, said it wanted to open the first movie theatre there.

Authorities hope there will be more than 300 cinemas and 2,000 screens in the country by 2030, serving a population of more than 32 million people. Indeed, as recent as this January, Saudi Arabia's highest-ranking cleric spoke of the "depravity" of cinema.

Lifting the ban on movie theaters is designed to help spur new economic activity to fuel the economy: citizens will spend money at the theaters (and on services surrounding theaters, like restaurants and coffee shops), and the theaters themselves will create jobs.

On Monday, Saudi authorities made a decision to allow the opening of cinemas after a ban that lasted for more than three decades. In the latest reform-minded move, Saudi Arabia announced Monday plans to open movie theaters in the new year.

Saudi Arabia began closing movie theaters after it embraced an extremely conservative interpretation of Islam in 1979. "It shows that cinemas in the kingdom have become important", he added.


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