Saudi Arabia to lift 35-year ban on cinemas


The first multiplex is expected to start screening movies in March 2018, with another 299 scheduled to be added by 2030, along with 2,000 screens.

United States 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.

In a media statement, the supervisor of the cinema sector, Fahd Al-Muammar, said that GCAM, as the sector regulator, would begin preparing the necessary practical steps and procedures for running cinema houses in the Kingdom.

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 move comes as part of Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman's Vision 2030, which includes a range of economic and social reforms - including allowing women to drive in the kingdom as of June 2018.

"Opening cinemas will act as a catalyst for economic growth and diversification", he said. Prices are not expected to reach worldwide levels until 2023 at the earliest and other fuel such as diesel, kerosene and heavy fuel oil will reportedly see incremental price increases over several years, the report added. 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.

The government said it will announce regulations in the coming weeks. But the country's film industry hasn't been completely dormant.

For the first time in more than 35 years, Saudis will be able to do something the rest of the world takes for granted: go to the movies. Though the level of restrictions and censorship are under the radar, the move is considered as Saudi's fading face of cleric-rule.