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Saudi Arabia to finally lift cinema ban from 2018

Saudi Arabians will be allowed to legally watch a film in a cinema next year for the first time in more than three decades.

Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman has passed a resolution allowing licences to be granted to commercial cinemas.

The kingdom used to have many cinemas; however, all but one, an IMAX theatre showing documentaries, were closed down in the 1980s during an ultra-conservative period.

Many clerics still view Western movies and Arabic films made in Egypt as sinful.

Since the crown prince, 32, became first deputy prime minister and minister of defence under his father, King Salman, he has rapidly pushed for social reform.

Under his influence a ban on women driving will be lifted next year.

Concerts and other forms of entertainment will be brought back for the country’s young, which make up the majority of the population.

The heir to the throne has also attempted to boost local spending and create jobs as oil prices reduce.

The first cinemas are expected to open in March 2018, according to Monday’s announcement.

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Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman has allowed licences to be granted for cinemas
Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman has allowed licences to be granted for cinemas

Many Saudis, including filmmakers, currently get around the lack of cinemas by streaming movies online and watching films on satellite television.

Neighbouring countries, including Bahrain and the United Arab Emirates, also attract many Saudis to their cinemas.

Over the past few years young Saudi filmmakers have received government support and recognition, with a Saudi film festival taking place over the past few years in the eastern city of Dhahran.

About 60 films were screened at the festival this year.

Wadjda, a Saudi film written and directed by female director Haifaa al-Mansour, became the country’s first Academy Award entry, although it was not nominated.

The Ministry of Culture and Information did not reveal if cinemas would have family-only sections which segregate women and families from male-only audiences.

It also did not say if the cinemas would host all major Hollywood, Bollywood and Arabic releases or how heavily edited content would be.

The Saudi government said cinemas would contribute more than 90bn riyals (£18bn) to the economy and create more than 30,000 jobs by 2030.

A total of 300 cinemas with 2,000 screens will be built in that time.

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