Saudis to end ban on movie theaters

Posted December 13, 2017

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

SAUDI Arabia is to lift a 35-year ban on cinemas and allow films to be screened from March next year. Cinemas have been been illegal since the early 1980s when Islamic laws were tightened in response to the threat of growing fundamentalism in the kingdom, says the Financial Times.

The last attempts to open cinemas were made by Prince Al-Waleed bin Talal in February 2009 through the movie Menahi, which was shown in Riyadh, in the first public cinema show in the history of the capital as an unprecedented event in the theatre of King Fahad Cultural Centre, which has a capacity of 3,000 spectators. "By developing the broader cultural sector we will create new employment and training opportunities, as well as enriching the kingdom's entertainment options", he added.

The project is also a part of a comprehensive reform program aimed at reducing the country's dependence on oil. They argue it makes no sense to ban cinemas when movies today are readily available online.

Saudi Arabia began closing movie theaters after it embraced an extremely conservative interpretation of Islam in 1979.

Allowing movie theaters to reopen is the latest sign of the Saudi Arabian government accepting cultural activities that are taken for granted in most other nations around the world.

Actor and producer Hisham Fageeh, who starred in Saudi film Barakah Meets Barakah, said: 'It's spectacular news. However, he has also arrested several clerics and activists and detained senior princes and businessmen in what the government calls an anti-corruption campaign.