Movie cinemas are set to open in Saudi Arabia after a 35 year old law banning cinemas was lifted. Saudi Arabia’s board of the General Commission for Audiovisual Media passed a resolution allowing the authority to grant licenses to cinemas. Cinemas are expected to be opened as early as March 2018.
Minister of Culture and Information Awwad bin Saleh Alawwad said, “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." "This marks a watershed moment in the development of the cultural economy in the Kingdom.” By 2030, there are projected to be over 300 cinemas with more than 2,000 screens," he added.
This development is part of a larger series of cultural reforms in the conservative kingdom, which has seen the lifting of bans on women for driving and entering sports stadiums. Directed by Saudi Arabia's first female filmmaker Haifa Al Mansour, Wadjda made history in 2013 by becoming the first Academy Award entry for Saudi Arabia. Her new film, Mary Shelley is currently featuring in the Dubai International Film Festival.
MPAA chairman-CEO Charles Rivkin issued a statement, saying, “The MPAA applauds the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia – under the leadership of HRH Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman – for its decision to end the prohibition on movie theaters. This is a positive step for the development of Saudi Arabia’s local creative economy and for moviegoers throughout the Middle East region. We firmly believe that film has the power to build bridges, across borders and between cultures, in every corner of the world."