Saudi Arabia Lifts Ban on Movie Theatres After 35 Years

Saudi Arabia on 11 December 2017 lifted a decades-long ban on cinemas, part of a series of social reforms by the powerful crown prince that are shaking up the ultra-conservative kingdom. The govt, it would begin licensing cinemas immediately and the first movie theatres are expected to open next March, in a decision that could boost the kingdom’s nascent film industry.

Reviving cinemas would represent a paradigm shift in the kingdom, which is promoting entertainment as part of a sweeping reform plan for a post-oil era, despite opposition from hardliners who have long vilified movie theatres as vulgar and sinful. Saudi Arabia is expected to have more than 300 cinemas – with over 2,000 screens – all across the kingdom by 2030.

Like most public spaces in the kingdom, cinema halls are expected to be segregated by gender or have a separate section for families. Commercial cinemas will be allowed to operate in the Kingdom as of early 2018, for the first time in more than 35 years. This marks a watershed moment in the development of the cultural economy in the kingdom.

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