RIYADH: Saudi Arabia, in a major announcement today, said it will allow cinemas early next year for the first time in more than 35 years as part of the kingdom’s plan to revive the entertainment industry and overhaul the economy.
According to the statement of Ministry of Culture and Information as quoted by the Khaleej Times, the first multiplexes are expected to open in March 2018,
Saudi Arabia’s Islamic clerical establishment and Saudis have typically frowned upon non-religious forms of entertainment such as cinema and music.
There will be more than 300 cinemas with 2,000 screens across the kingdom by 2030, according to the announcement
In late October 2017, according to Khaleej Times, a rare movie night was held in Riyadh as a precursor to an expected formal lifting of the Kingdom’s ban on cinemas.
“Cinema is like the soul of Saudi society,” Faisal Alharbi, director of “National Dialogue”, one of three short films screened to an audience packed into the capital’s King Fahd Cultural Centre had said.
Regional cinema chain operators are already believed to be studying entry into Saudi Arabia, industry sources said.
A commission chaired by Alawwad will announce details of licensing and regulations over the next few weeks, the government said.
In 2016, a newspaper in the Gulf kingdom cited Sultan Al Bazi, Chairman of the Saudi culture and arts association as saying: “Cinema houses will reopen in Saudi Arabia soon…the decision is not in our hands but they will open again because of social changes and the fact that they do not contradict religion.”
“The current period in the kingdom is witnessing real changes because the society is changing…I believe that reopening of the cinemas is part of these changes,” he had told the Saudi Arabic language daily Sada.