Kingdom lifts cinema ban after 35 years

Saudi Arabia will allow cinemas for the first time in more than 35 years.

The first cinemas are expected to open in March 2018. The aim is to reach 2,000 screens in more than 300 cinemas by 2030.

The industry is expected to contribute about $24 billion to the economy and creating over 30,000 jobs.

Announcing the move on Monday, the culture minister, Awwad Alawwad, said: “This marks a watershed moment in the development of the cultural economy in the kingdom.

Opening cinemas will act as a catalyst for economic growth and diversification. By developing the broader cultural sector we will create new employment and training opportunities, as well as enriching the kingdom’s entertainment options.”

According to a ministry statement reported by the official Saudi Press Agency,  movies would be edited according to the “standards of the Kingdom” and would not “contradict with Sharia Laws and moral values."

The kingdom hasn’t had public cinemas since the early 1980s. Conservatives who consider cinemas as sinful and harmful to the culture were instrumental in shutting them down in the 1980s.

Since his rise to power in 2015, Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman has been shaking up the place with series of social and economic reforms, including allowing women to drive and allowing women into sports stadiums.

The social reforms are part of a plan for the kingdom’s economy post oil era.

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