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Saudis rejoice after decades-long ban on cinemas lifted Open in fullscreen

The New Arab

Saudis rejoice after decades-long ban on cinemas lifted

Like most public spaces in the kingdom, cinema halls are expected to be segregated [Getty]

Date of publication: 11 December, 2017

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Saudis have flooded social media to celebrate the government's decision to lift a decades-old ban on cinemas in the conservative kingdom.

Saudis took to social media on Monday after it was announced a decades-old ban on cinemas in the conservative kingdom would be lifted.

Saudi Arabia's ministry of culture announced on Monday that licenses will soon be granted to commercial cinemas in the kingdom, with the first ones expected to open in March next year.

The move is a stark reversal in a county where movie theatres were shut down in the early 1980s following a wave of ultra-conservative activism and militancy in the country.

Despite decades of Wahhabi dogma, Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman has sought to ram through a number of major social reforms with support from his father, King Salman.

Many Saudis took to Twitter to express their joy at the news, posting images of buckets of popcorn and videos of people dancing, fainting and crying.

"It is a beautiful day in #SaudiArabia!" Saudi female director Haifaa al-Mansour said on Twitter, reacting the announcement.

Her film Wadjda made history in 2013 after it became Saudi Arabia's first Academy Award entry.

"Now our young men and women will show the world possibilities and stories worth seeing. Congratulations to the 2030 Generation," Saudi filmmaker Aymen Tarek Jamal tweeted.

Saudis splurge billions of dollars annually to see films and visit amusement parks in neighbouring tourist hubs like Dubai and Bahrain.

One Saudi Twitter user posted a picture of the causeway linking Saudi Arabia with Bahrain, writing "Good bye".

A statement carried by the state-run SPA news agency, said that film content "will be subject to censorship" to ensure films do not contradict Islamic law and the kingdom's moral values.

Saudi Arabia is expected to have more than 300 cinemas - with over 2,000 screens - all across the kingdom by 2030, the ministry said.

Like most public spaces in the kingdom, cinema halls are expected to be segregated by gender or have a separate section for families. They will also likely be subject to strict censorship.

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