Saudi Arabia Lifts Ban on Cinema After 35 Years

While Hollywood is celebrating the newly announced Golden Globe nominations, Saudi Arabia is celebrating something very different: a new law that will once again allow movie theaters to operate.

"This marks a watershed moment in the development of the cultural economy in the kingdom", said Culture Minister Awwad Alawwad in a statement.

Saudi Arabia's main sovereign wealth fund said it planned to enter the cinema business with major USA -based movie exhibition company AMC Entertainment Holdings, as the conservative kingdom lifts a 35-year-old ban on cinemas.

But authorities appear to be shrugging off the threat.Saudi filmmakers have long argued that a ban on cinemas does not make sense in the age of YouTube.Saudi films have been making waves overseas, using the internet to circumvent distribution channels and sometimes the stern gaze of state censors. "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".

Many of Saudi Arabia's clerics believe Western movies, and even Arabic films made in Egypt and Lebanon, are sinful.

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That's intensified under the Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, widely known as MBS, an ambitious 32-year-old slated to become the country's next king.

A large number of people from Saudi Arabia used to visit the neighboring UAE to go to see movies in theatres.

The Ministry added: "The movies' content will be subject to censorship according to the Kingdom's media policy standards".

The Saudi government announced on Monday that the first theatres could start showing films as early as March, part of a liberalising reform drive that has opened the door to concerts, comedy shows and women drivers in the past year.