Saudi Arabia Is Finally Lifting Its Ban on Movie Theaters

Saudi Arabia to open cinemas for first time in 35 years

Reviving cinemas would represent a paradigm shift in the kingdom, which is promoting entertainment as part of a sweeping reform plan dubbed "Vision 2030", despite opposition from conservatives. Movie theaters were shut down in the 1980's during a wave of ultra-conservatism in the country.

Headed by Amr al-Madani, the government body aims to enhance the cultural and entertainment sector within the country.

Saudi Arabia's highest-ranking cleric spoke in January of the "depravity" of cinemas, saying they would corrupt morals, but the authorities appear to be shrugging off resistance.

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. This is expected to contribute $24 billion to the Saudi economy and generate 30,000 jobs by 2030, according to AP & Bloomberg, which quoted a press release issued by the Saudi Ministry of Culture & Information. Gas prices, diesel, kerosene, and heavy fuel oil prices will see gradual increases over several years to reach worldwide prices, according to Bloomberg's source.

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"Opening cinemas will act as a catalyst for economic growth and diversification", said Minister of Culture and Information Awwad bin Saleh Alawwad. Saudi female director Haifaa al-Mansour said on Twitter, reacting the announcement.

The Saudi Arabian economy has been buffeted by adverse economic conditions of late, which have seen its cash reserves fall by $170 bn in the last two years, along with a budget deficit of $177 bn. "It's spectacular news. We are in a state of shock", he said. It is estimated that the first public movie theaters will open their doors in 2018.

Bryan Lynn wrote this story for VOA Learning English. "The move opens up a domestic market of over 32 million people". Write to us in the Comments section, and visit our Facebook page.

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