Saudi Arabia opens cinemas following a 35-year ban

Saudi sovereign fund plans cinema venture with AMC Entertainment
Saudi Arabia opens cinemas following a 35-year ban

13 December, 2017

The decision is a part of the young crown prince, Mohammed bin Salman's Vision 2030, a program created to socially reform the country.

The lifting of the cinema ban is part of the Vision 2030 plan, which officials hope will see Saudi household spending on culture & entertainment rise from 2.9% to 6% by 2030.

The Minister of Culture, Awwad bin Saleh Alawwad, welcomed the measure as a strategic move in the economic diversification of the kingdom. For the last 35 years, cinemas have been banned in the kingdom; that changed on Monday, when the government announced that it was finally reversing the ban, according to the A.P.

Theater-goers are expected to be lining up in March 2018 when movie houses will again be licensed.

The project is also a part of a comprehensive reform program aimed at reducing the country's dependence on oil. In addition, it is still unclear whether cinemas will largely cater to Hollywood, Bollywood, or Saudi Arabian films, and whether theaters will segregate women and men.

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"It's spectacular news. We are in a state of shock", Saudi actor and producer Hisham Fageeh told the A.P.

Yet, he voiced his concern over censorship, as "any kind of intimacy and love is considered taboo and a moral violation".

Saudi Arabia began closing movie theaters after it embraced an extremely conservative interpretation of Islam in 1979. He apparently has support from his father, King Salman, to address a number of social reforms.

Saudi Arabia has announced it will allow cinemas to operate in the country - more than three decades after they were banned. However, he has also arrested several clerics and activists and detained senior princes and businessmen in what the government calls an anti-corruption campaign.

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