Saudia Arabia has officially lifted a ban on cinema that has been intact for the last 35 years. The move was expected after the country announced in October plans for the Future Investment Initiative, which included the building and opening of movie theaters across the country. Movie theaters have not been open in Saudi Arabia since 1982. The General Entertainment Authority has said it opens to create entertainment that “will be like 99% of what is going on in London and New York.”
“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,” said Minister of Culture and Information Awwad bin Saleh Alawwad. “This marks a watershed moment in the development of the cultural economy in the Kingdom.”
The ban was lifted on December 11 by the board of the General Commission for Audio Visual Media. The first movie theaters are expected to open in March 2018, and the plan is to continue building theaters so that there are over 300 cinemas with over 2,00 screens by 2030.
As Deadline reports, filmmaking and film interest in Saudi Arabia has been booming over the past several years. Haifaa al Mansour became the first woman to direct a feature with 2013’s “Wadjda,” which was selected as the country’s first official Oscar submission for Best Foreign Language film. Mahmoud Sabbagh’s 2014 feature “Barakah Meets Barakah” was the country’s second film submitted to the Oscars and its first to play at the Berlin Film Festival.