Saudi Arabia's main sovereign wealth fund said it planned to enter the cinema business with major US -based movie exhibition company AMC Entertainment Holdings, as the conservative kingdom lifts a 35-year-old ban on cinemas.
The first movie theaters are slated to open in March 2018. For the last 35 years, cinemas have been banned in the kingdom; that changed on Monday, when the government announced that it was finally reversing the ban, according to the A.P.
The minister of Culture and Information, Awwad Alawwad, told the AFP, the decision to license cinemas was "central to the government's programme to encourage an open and rich domestic culture for Saudis".
The decision is a part of the young crown prince, Mohammed bin Salman's Vision 2030, a program created to socially reform the country. The projected revenue is 90 billion riyals (or $24 billion), which will be bolstered by the creation of more than 30,000 jobs, the A.P. notes.
Cinemas had been closed down in the 1980s as a reaction to the mixing of men and women in public. They argue it makes no sense to ban cinemas when movies today are readily available online.
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Actor and producer Hisham Fageeh, who starred in Saudi film Barakah Meets Barakah, said: 'It's spectacular news.
Yet, he voiced his concern over censorship, as "any kind of intimacy and love is considered taboo and a moral violation".
Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman has tightened his grip on power through overturning established social norms in the kingdom since his rise to power in 2015.
The development is coming about three months after the government granted Saudi women the right to drive cars for the first time in history.
By forming an anti-corruption committee, the Crown Prince ordered the detention of senior princes and businessmen, in what media described as a massive purge.