Cinemas return to Saudi Arabia

Cinemas return to Saudi Arabia

Kerry Wise
December 13, 2017

The Saudi government said a resolution was passed Monday to pave the way for licenses to be granted to commercial movie theaters, with the first cinemas expected to open in March.

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.

Saudi Arabia is to open its doors to cinema for the first time in 35 years this March.

The ministry added that the government will begin licensing cinemas immediately.

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

"Reviving cinemas would represent a paradigm shift in the kingdom, which is promoting entertainment as part of a sweeping reform plan dubbed "Vision 2030", despite opposition from conservatives".

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The industry is expected to contribute about United States dollars 24 billion to the economy and create more than 30,000 permanent jobs.

The ministry's website stated that "Working in the film industry will have an economic impact that will increase the size of the media market, stimulate economic growth and diversification by contributing with more than 90 billion Saudi riyals (25 billion dollars) to the GDP, and create more than 30,000 permanent jobs, in addition to more than 130,000 temporary jobs by 2030".

The project is also a part of a comprehensive reform program aimed at reducing the country's dependence on oil.

Cinemas had been closed down in the 1980s as a reaction to the mixing of men and women in public. They argue it makes no sense to ban cinemas when movies today are readily available online. Even movies produced in other Arab countries were subject to censorship.

On Monday, Saudi authorities made a decision to allow the opening of cinemas after a ban that lasted for more than three decades. However, he has also arrested several clerics and activists and detained senior princes and businessmen in what the government calls an anti-corruption campaign.