Saudi Arabia announces to lift ban on cinemas after 35 years

Saudi Arabia announces to lift ban on cinemas after 35 years

Saudi Arabia's Islamic clerical establishment and conservative Saudis have typically frowned upon non-religious forms of entertainment such as cinema and music.

According to the Saudi authorities, movie theaters will soon be allowed to operate in the kingdom.

It certainly appears that they will be needed - Saudi Arabia's Ministry of Culture and information has promised that movies will be censored and edited to ensure that they don't "contradict with Sharia laws and moral values in the Kingdom". That's intensified under the Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, widely known as MBS, an ambitious 32-year-old slated to become the country's next king. "By developing the broader cultural sector, we will create new employment and training opportunities, as well as enrich the kingdom's entertainment options", Culture Minister Awwad Alawwad said in a statement, as reported by Variety.

Saudi Arabia is expected to have more than 300 cinemas - with over 2,000 screens - all across the kingdom by 2030, the ministry said.

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The government said it will announce regulations in the coming weeks.

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.

"Saudi Arabia is always in the news, but it's nice to be in the news in this way", said Los Angeles-based Saudi director Haifaa Al Mansour.

The move is a stark reversal in a county where movie theatres were shut down in the early 1980s following a wave of ultra-conservative activism and militancy in the country. However, the initial decision to allow commercial licenses is a massive step forward for Saudi film lovers, and could potentially allow more Saudi filmmakers a chance to flourish-as well as inspire aspiring cinephiles. It is estimated that the first public movie theaters will open their doors in 2018.

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