Saudi Arabia Lifts 35-Year Cinema Ban

Saudi Arabia Lifts Ban Off the Silver Screen, Will Allow Cinemas to Operate From Next Year

Saudi Arabia said it will begin licensing cinemas for the first time in more than 35 years as part of the kingdom's plan to revive the entertainment industry and overhaul the economy.

The government said the first cinemas were expected to open in March 2018.

U.S. cinema chain AMC Entertainment along with Saudi Arabia's vast Public Investment Fund is likely to open 300 theatres with 2000 screens by 2030, which will reportedly contribute $24 billion to the economy. Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman has been driving a program of social and economic reforms under the Vision 2030 banner, and rescinding the cinema ban is part of that drive.

Karim Atassi, who handles business development for Middle East cinema chain Cinemacity, told Variety that the complexes they hope to build in Saudi Arabia would have separate seating sections for men and for women and children.

The embassy said in its statement said that Prince Bader has been a supporter of the Louvre Abu Dhabi, and that on 8 November, at the Louvre's opening ceremony, the Department of Culture and Tourism approached the prince and asked him to act as an "intermediary purchaser".

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The Ministry of Culture and Information said there are no additional details available at this time. The need to shake up the economy is causing a major cultural shift in the conservative kingdom, which is relaxing its control over women to encourage their participation in the economy.

"It's spectacular news. We are in a state of shock", Saudi actor and producer Hisham Fageeh was quoted as saying by a news agency.

Saudi Arabia, for example, has relaxed restrictions on public musical concerts in the past year - American country music star Toby Keith performed before an (all-male) audience during President Donald Trump's visit to the country in May.

"I think over the next few months there will be quite a few changes [in Saudi]; lots of exciting things coming up", said Dubai Film Festival general manager Shivani Pandya.

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