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Mon 11 Dec 2017 01:00 PM

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Saudi Arabia says first cinemas to open in early 2018

This is the first time that cinemas will have been licensed since their ban in the early 1980s

Saudi Arabia says first cinemas to open in early 2018
Saudis arrive to watch Saudi short movies during the Short Film Competition 2 festival on October 20 at King Fahad Culture Center in Riyadh. The rare movie night was a precursor to the formal lifting of the kingdom's ban on cinemas. (FAYEZ NURELDINE/AFP/Getty Images)

The Saudi Ministry of Culture and Information (MOCI) announced on Monday that commercial cinemas will be allowed to operate in the kingdom in 2018, for the first time in more than 35 years.

The Board of the General Commission for Audiovisual Media (GCAM) passed a resolution allowing it to grant licences to cinemas, including commercial providers.

Dr Awwad Alawwad, Minister of Culture and Information, said: “As the industry regulator, the General Commission for Audiovisual Media has started the process for licensing cinemas in the Kingdom. We expect the first cinemas to open in March 2018.”

The measure comes as part of the Vision 2030 social and economic reform programme under the leadership of Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman.

The decision to license cinemas is central to the government’s programme to encourage an open and rich domestic culture for Saudis. The move follows a variety of economic and social reforms including the announcement in a September Royal Decree by King Salman that women would be allowed to drive as of June 2018.

This is the first time that cinemas have been licensed since their ban in the early 1980s.

“This marks a watershed moment in the development of the cultural economy in the kingdom,” Alawwad said in a statement.

“Opening cinemas will act as a catalyst for economic growth and diversification; by developing the broader cultural sector we will create new employment and training opportunities, as well as enriching the Kingdom’s entertainment options.”

Vision 2030 aims to increase Saudi household spending on cultural and entertainment activities from 2.9 percent currently to 6 percent by 2030. It is anticipated that by 2030 the kingdom will have opened over 300 cinemas, with over 2,000 screens.

It is estimated that the cinema industry will stimulate economic growth and diversification by contributing more than 90 billion riyals ($23.99 billion) to GDP, creating more than 30,000 permanent jobs and more than 130,000 temporary jobs by 2030.

GCAM said it will announce more details on licencing and regulations over the next few weeks.

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