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​Saudi Arabia to open first cinemas in 35 years

Saudi Arabia will allow cinemas to open for the first time in 35 years, thanks to a reform taken on by Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman.

12th December 2017
/ By Matthew Whitehouse

Saudi Arabia opens cinemas PIXABAY

In a statement released yesterday (Monday), the culture and information ministry announced: "Commercial cinemas will be allowed to operate in the kingdom as of early 2018, for the first time in more than 35 years." 

The first cinemas are due to open as early as March 2018.

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.”

Salma al-Saud, 24, a Saudi student,told The Guardian: “I believe that there must be a wall in the beginning. It’s a huge cultural shift so it would be easier for people to accept. Many are against this move.

"They believe it’s going to corrupt values if men and women are mixed in together. It is still considered a taboo to mix here.

“It should be done very gradually. This is a new era for Saudi and a new step for us. This will show the world that we also have an artistic side. We have to keep progressing.”

The reform also allows women to drive from June 2018.

The Saudi Arabian government is hoping that opening 300 cinemas will contribute $24 billion (£18bn) to the economy.

Dubai Film Festival general manager Shivani Pandya said: “I think over the next few months there will be quite a few changes [in Saudi Arabia], lots of exciting things coming up. 

"Everybody is excited because it’s expected to open up a huge market.”

During the 1980s cinemas were banned as they were considered a threat to religious and cultural identity.