Saudi Arabia: 35-year ban on cinemas to be lifted

'Commercial cinemas will be allowed to operate in the kingdom as of early 2018, for the first time in more than 35 years', said information ministry

(Photo: NewsX)
(Photo: NewsX)

Saudi Arabia has announced that it will be lifting a 35-year ban on cinemas, as part of social reforms by the Crown Prince, which are shaking up the nation.

“Commercial cinemas will be allowed to operate in the kingdom as of early 2018, for the first time in more than 35 years,” said the culture and information ministry in a statement on Monday.

The government will begin licensing venues immediately, they added.

The kingdom is promoting entertainment as part of sweeping changes, known as Vision 2030, which are being implemented despite opposition.

“This marks a watershed moment in the development of the cultural economy in the kingdom,” said Awwad Alawwad, the information minister.

Conservatives, who perceive cinemas as a threat to the country’s religious and cultural identity, played a great role in having them shut down during the 1980s.

Saudi Arabia’s high ranking cleric spoke in January of the “depravity” of cinemas, claiming that they would corrupt morals.

Saudi filmmakers have argued that a ban on cinemas simply does not make sense in the age of YouTube.

Saudi films, in the meantime, have been making waves abroad, with the internet being used as distribution channels. 

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