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Saudi Arabia : Cinema Ban to be lifted from March 2018
January 21 2018, 12:27 | Irvin Gilbert
Saudi Arabia's main sovereign wealth fund said it planned to enter the cinema business with major USA -based movie exhibition company AMC Entertainment Holdings, as the conservative kingdom lifts a 35-year-old ban on cinemas.
The Saudi General Authority for Audiovisual Media, which is headed by Culture and Information Minister Awwad Saleh Alawwad, approved to begin granting licenses to cinemas in the kingdom within a period that does not exceed 90 days.
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.
It certainly appears that they will be needed - Saudi Arabia's Ministry of Culture and information has promised that movies will be censored and edited to ensure that they don't "contradict with Sharia laws and moral values in the Kingdom". The government said it expected to open over 300 cinemas with more than 2,000 screens by 2030.
The project is also a part of a comprehensive reform program aimed at reducing the country's dependence on oil.
The move was highly welcomed by filmmaking community, who have long argued that ban on cinemas does not make sense in the age of YouTube.
"It's spectacular news. We are in a state of shock", Saudi actor and producer Hisham Fageeh told the A.P.
Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman has tightened his grip on power through overturning established social norms in the kingdom since his rise to power in 2015.
Saudi Arabia has been lifting lots of bans since the new prince took over the kingdom.