Saudi Arabia lifts decades-long ban on cinemas

Movie seats

Saudi Arabia lifts decades-long ban on cinemas

Cinemas will operate from early 2018, having been denied licences since the early 1980s.

By 2030, Saudi Arabia is expected to open over 300 cinemas with more than 2,000 screens, a government statement said, predicting the cinema industry would contribute over 90 billion riyals ($24 billion) to the economy and create 30,000 permanent jobs by 2030.

The Saudi General Authority for Audiovisual Media, which is headed by Culture and Information Minister Awwad Saleh Alawwad, approved to begin granting licenses to cinemas in the kingdom within a period that does not exceed 90 days.

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The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia has of late taken unprecedented moves to modernize the country, with the most recent move including lifting the ban on movie theaters.

The measure is part of Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman's Vision 2030 social and economic reform programme.

The Ministry of Culture and Information did not reveal if cinemas would have family-only sections which segregate women and families from male-only audiences.

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The first cinemas could be ready for business as soon as March, next year, after the General Commission for Audiovisual Media started the process for licensing cinemas in the Kingdom.

Saudi Arabia is the only country in the world which forbids women from driving and has been highlighted as a key symbol of oppression against women in the Kingdom.

According to authorities, Vision 2030 aims to increase Saudi household spending on cultural and entertainment activities from 2.9 percent now to 6% by 2030.

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