Saudi Arabia Lifts Ban on Cinema After 35 Years

by Garry Watts December 13, 2017, 4:30
Saudi Arabia Lifts Ban on Cinema After 35 Years

Saudi Arabia's bold reforms have met opposition from hardliners, who believe movie theaters threaten the country's religious and cultural identity.

Saudi Arabia's Ministry of Culture and Information announced on December 11 that it would allow cinemas to operate beginning in early 2018, 35 years after Risky Business and Flashdance made a splash in theaters. Dubai-based mall operator Majid Al Futtaim, which owns VOX Cinemas, said it wanted to open the first movie theatre there.

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.

The modernist decision is part of bin Salman's and the government's initiative Vision 2030, which seeks to broaden their country's sources of revenue outside of the oil industry.

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The government of the 32-year-old Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman announced on Monday that a 35-year ban on cinema will come to an end. Recently, Saudi Arabia has lifted Ban of Women Driving and Women Voting in 2017. The first movie theater is expected to open by March 2018, and the government estimates that by 2030, there will be 300 theaters (with 2,000 screens) in Saudi Arabia.

But it's worth noting that the 2016 Global Gender Gap Report by the World Economic Forum ranked the kingdom of Saudi Arabia 141 out of 144 countries on gender parity.

"Movies would be submitted to a committee of censorship which will ensure that their content respects the values of the Saudi society and does not contravene the laws in force", stressed the ministry. "It shows that cinemas in the kingdom have become important", he added.

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