Cinema Ban Lifted in Saudi Arabia after almost 40 years

A cinema ban which has forbidden residents from attending screenings in Saudi Arabia, has been lifted after 35 years.

The latest move comes as part of the Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman’s ongoing mission to return Saudi Arabia to moderate Islam.

The ruling comes after the removal of several bans which disallowed women to drive and vote.

As a result, cinemas will once again be legal in Saudi Arabia from next year, with many more set to open in conjunction with a progressive vision for the country’s future.

Vision 2030 is an ongoing project, initiated by Mohammed bin Salman, and contains a structured outline of how he intends to ‘diversify Saudi Arabia’s oil-dependent economy and modernize its society to attract international investment.’

Information Minister Awwad Alawwad made the announcements a few days ago:

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

The first set of movie theaters set to open by March 2018, with approximately 300 more to be opened before 2030.

It also predicts the new cinema industry will contribute over 90 billion riyals ($24 billion, €20 billion) to the national economy and spur the creation of 30,000 permanent jobs.’

Filmmakers, actors and industry figures have been celebrating the move.

It’s spectacular news. We are in a state of shock,” said Hisham Fageeh, a Saudi actor and producer.

In an interview with The Guardian, Salma al-Saud, 24, a Saudi student, said: “It’s a huge cultural shift so it would be easier for people to accept. It should be done very gradually. This is a new era for Saudi and a new step for us. This will show the world that we also have an artistic side. We have to keep progressing.”

‘“Saudi Arabia is always in the news, but it’s nice to be in the news in this way, said Los Angeles-based Saudi director Haifaa Al Manour, who released the first full-length feature shot entirely in the kingdom, Wadjda, in 2012. (Sc. Reuters) 

“I feel like we’re about to relive what Egypt was like in the ‘50s,” she said, referring to the explosion of film-making in what is now the epicenter of Arabic popular cinema.’

Colin J McCracken
Colin J McCracken

Director and Executive Editor

Colin J McCracken is an Irish editor and writer of both fiction and journalism. Coming from a background in education and film, his passions are split between the environmental and the entertaining. Constantly striving for a more sustainable existence and trying to balance it while simultaneously buying too many books.