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Saudi Arabia to Permit Movie Theaters After 35-Year Ban

13 December 2017

The government estimates that by 2030 it will have over 300 cinemas, with more than 2,000 screens. An official source said on Monday that the kingdom's government was planning to announce the launch of the system of financial allowances to help low- and middle-income households cope with the costs of economic reforms on Tuesday.

Saudi Arabia is undergoing a major economic shift known as Vision 2030 that is meant to move the country's economy away from its dependence on oil and reduce its almost $80 billion deficit. "Risks mainly come from uncertainties about future oil prices and how ongoing reforms will impact the economy", according to the International Monetary Fund.

"This marks a watershed moment in the development of the cultural economy in the Kingdom", Minister of Culture and Information Awwad Alawwad said in the statement, adding that the first cinemas would open in March.

Per the A.P., the government is laying groundwork to allow commercial licenses for theaters.

USA 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.

Many involved in the country's film community praised the decision.

Saudi women attend a rare cinema screening at a film festival in Riyadh in October 2017.

Khaled Yeslam, a Saudi actor, said: "We now have no excuse not to excel in this field".

AMC, the country's largest theater chain, made the agreement with The Public Investment Fund of Saudi Arabia. It also is likely that women and men will be obligated to sit separately in cinemas.

He stressed that all cinematic shows must be consistent with the deeply rooted social values in order to ensure presenting purposeful and attractive entertaining activities, that do not violate the ethical principles in the Kingdom.

Saudi Arabia to Permit Movie Theaters After 35-Year Ban