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The New Arab

Saudi Arabia lifts ban on cinemas

Saudis will be able to watch Hollywood blockbusters next year [AFP]

Date of publication: 11 December, 2017

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Cinemas will be licensed in Saudi Arabia from 2018, as the kingdom witnesses the latest reforms designed to appeal to the country's growing youth.

Saudi Arabia is set to lift a ban on cinemas in the country, the latest social reform announced to shake-up the kingdom.

Saudi cinemas will be issued with licenses at the start of 2018 the culture ministry said on Monday and ends a decades-long ban on the screening of films in public.

"As the industry regulator, the General Commission for Audiovisual Media has started the process for licensing cinemas in the kingdom," Minister of Culture and Information Awwad bin Saleh Alawwad said in a statement.

"We expect the first cinemas to open in March 2018."

Films have been screened in theatres this year but no Riyadh has now allowed enterprises to open dedicated solely to cinema.

It is the first time in 35 years cinemas will be able to open their doors in the kingdom, when a conservative backlash forced many forms of public entertainment underground.

Earlier it was announced that Saudi Arabia would lift a driving ban for women next year and restrictions on live music have also been dropped, all designed to appeal to the country's youth population.

Finances have also been at the centre of the reforms too, as the country looks at ways to gain more cash and diversify its economy as Riyadh feels the pinch of low oil prices.

"This marks a watershed moment in the development of the cultural economy in the kingdom," Alawwad said in a statement.

Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman's Vision 2030 economic plan looks to attract tourists and investors to the country, although many economists are doubtful about this given the wide scale repression in the country.

Saudi Arabia has a small but growing film industry, which attracted worldwide attention with films Wajda and Barakah Meets Barakah.

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