Saudi Arabia lifts ban on cinemas: Government

According to the website of the Ministry of Culture and Information of Saudi Arabia, "at its meeting today (Monday), the Board of Directors of the General Commission for Audiovisual Media, headed by the Minister of Culture and Information, Awwad bin Saleh Alawwad, approved the issuance of licenses for those who are willing to open cinemas in the Kingdom".

But Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman has sought to implement a number of major social changes with support from his father, King Salman.

In the 1980s, movie theatres in Saudi Arabia were banned, considered a threat to religious and cultural identity.

The government said there will be more than 300 cinemas with 2,000 screens across the kingdom by 2030.

Saudi authorities have announced that they will begin licensing cinemas immediately and that the first movie theatres will open in March 2018. While the March 2018 start date means Saudi Arabian crowds will miss out on the big-screen perfection that is Lady Bird, here's hoping they'll get a chance to weigh in on whatever movies rule the Western box office next summer. The projected revenue is 90 billion riyals (or $24 billion), which will be bolstered by the creation of more than 30,000 jobs, the A.P. notes.

"It's spectacular news. We are in a state of shock", Saudi actor and producer Hisham Fageeh tweeted. Even movies produced in other Arab countries were subject to censorship.

Saudi Arabia is lifting a decades-old ban on cinemas and will allow both men and women in the audience - but media commentators don't expect to see couples sitting together watching steamy thrillers any time soon. However, he has also arrested several clerics and activists and detained senior princes and businessmen in what the government calls an anti-corruption campaign.

  • Jon Douglas