Published: Tue, December 12, 2017
Entertaiment | By Minnie Bishop

Saudi Arabia lifts ban on cinemas: Government

Saudi Arabia lifts ban on cinemas: Government

In the latest reform-minded move, Saudi Arabia announced Monday plans to open movie theaters in the new year.

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

Saudi Arabia has announced it will allow cinemas to operate in the country - more than three decades after they were banned.

According to some sources, cinemas will increase the size of the media market and motivate economic growth and diversity as it will contribute with around 90 billion riyals to the GDP and create more than 30,000 permanent jobs as well as more than 130,000 temporary jobs by 2030. Officials later said they would eliminate them entirely by 2020, part of Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman's Vision 2030 plan for the post-oil era. Dubai-based mall operator Majid Al Futtaim, which owns VOX Cinemas, said it wanted to open the first movie theatre there.

In addition to stimulating a local film industry, this decision confirms the authorities' desire to make the entertainment sector an element of social transformation in a country governed by a rigorous form of Islam.

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The world's biggest oil exporter is struggling to cope with low prices and spending cuts aimed to reducing a budget deficit that reached about 15 percent of gross domestic product in 2015.

Cinemas had been closed down in the 1980s as a reaction to the mixing of men and women in public.

But authorities appear to be shrugging off the threat.Saudi filmmakers have long argued that a ban on cinemas does not make sense in the age of YouTube.Saudi films have been making waves overseas, using the internet to circumvent distribution channels and sometimes the stern gaze of state censors.

"It's spectacular news. We are in a state of shock", Saudi actor and producer Hisham Fageeh tweeted.

Yet, he voiced his concern over censorship, as "any kind of intimacy and love is considered taboo and a moral violation".

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