Saudi Arabian Cinemas to reopen next year after 35-year ban

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FILE PHOTO: Saudis watch composer Yanni perform at Princess Nourah bint Abdulrahman University in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, December 3, 2017. REUTERS/Faisal Al Nasser/File Photo

The Saudi Arabian government has announced on Monday its discontinuation of a 35-year old ban on commercial cinemas in the Western-Asian country.

The country’s ministry of culture and information has said it would begin issuing licences immediately assuring that that the first cinemas would commence operations by March 2018.

The turnaround is an outcome of Crown Prince, Mohammed bin Salman’s Vision 2030 social and economic reform programme with which he intends to transform the social outlook and economic fortunes of the ultra-conservative Muslim kingdom.

Cinemas, once considered as making the country prone to an infiltration of its cultural and religious ethos by amoral foreign influences, were encouraged to be banned by religious authorities in the 1980s.

In January, the grand mufti Sheikh Abdulaziz al-Sheikh publicly criticised cinemas saying they would promote depravity and corrupt morals.

Three months ago, the Saudis made history when their government granted women the right to drive cars for the first time.

Announcing the reversal which had been in the works for a while, the culture and information ministry said in a statement, “Commercial cinemas will be allowed to operate in the kingdom as of early 2018, for the first time in more than 35 years.”

“This marks a watershed moment in the development of the cultural economy in the kingdom,” said the kingdom’s information minister, Awwad Alawwad.

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