Saudi Arabia lifts ban on movie theatres after 35 years
December 14, 2017

The kingdom of Saudi Arabia announced that a resolution was passed on 11 December 2017 that lifted the decades-old ban on providing licenses to commercial movie theatres.

The decision will pave way for the opening of the country’s first public cinemas after more than 35 years. According to the nation’s Minister of Culture and Information Awwad bin Saleh Alawwad, the opening of the cinemas will act as a catalyst for economic growth and diversification.

Key Highlights

• The lifting of the ban will help develop a broader cultural sector in the kingdom and enrich its entertainment options.
• It will also create new employment and training opportunities.
• The licensing process for cinema operators would start within 90 days and the first cinemas are expected to open in March 2018.
• All the films scheduled to be screened at the theatres will be subjected to censorship according to the media policy standards of the kingdom.

Background

• The Arab nation has been a witness to a series of new progressive reforms ever since Mohammed Bin Salman was appointed as the Crown Prince on 21 June 2017.
• The Prince has successfully lobbied for regulations restricting the powers of the religious police and established an entertainment authority that has hosted comedy shows, concerts, pro wrestling events and other entertaining shows.
• He is also the key figure behind the removal of the ban on female drivers and letting women attend football games in stadiums.
• His proposed Saudi 2030 vision includes economic, social and religious changes.
• The oil-rich kingdom is also undergoing an economic reform to reduce its dependency on oil and to project the country as a more liberal and modern economy, which is also tourist friendly.
The movie theatres were shut down in the nations in the 1980s during a wave of ultra-conservatism in the country, as many of the clerics then viewed western movies and even Arabic ones as sinful.