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Public Cinemas Are Coming to Saudi Arabia Sooner Than You Think

Egyptian actor Sherihan photographed by Fouad Elkoury. Courtesy Sotheby’s

Many changes are coming to the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. The Gulf country has just unveiled plans to lift its long-standing ban on public cinemas effective March 2018, signaling a paradigm shift in the country. The announcement was made by The Ministry of Information and Culture in Saudi Arabia.

The Kingdom hasn’t had a public cinema in more than 35 years, save for an IMAX cinema in Khobar, at a science and technology center. During the 1970s, cinemas were commonplace in the Kingdom, before they were shut down the following decade.

The move is the latest from Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, who is on a mission to reform the Kingdom’s economy and make it a more tourist-friendly destination. In September, the 32-year-old crown prince revealed plans to allow Saudi women to get behind the wheel by June 2018.

“Opening cinemas will act as a catalyst for economic growth and diversification,” said Minister of Culture and Information Awwad bin Saleh Alawwad in a statement. “By developing the broader cultural sector, we will create new employment and training opportunities, as well as enriching the Kingdom’s entertainment options.” By 2030, there are expected to be 3,000 cinemas with 200 screens, according to the statement. “The government anticipates the opening of 300 cinemas with over 2,000 screens by 2030, contributing $24 billion to the economy and creating 30,000 jobs,” reported the Financial Times as the news broke.

It is not yet known what the cinemas will look like, but details of licensing and registration are set to be announced over the upcoming few weeks.

Related Read: Change is Coming With Women’s Driving Rights in Saudi Arabia

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