Saudi Arabia is taking yet another step in the direction of sweeping social and economic reforms.
After allowing women to drive in June 2018 and letting them into sport stadiums, the kingdom’s ministry of information and culture announced that cinemas will open from early 2018, for the first time since the 1980s — more than 35 years ago.
The initiative is part of Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman’s so-called Vision 2030, an ambitious package of social-economic reforms to diversify the kingdom’s oil-dependent economy and return it to “moderate Islam”.
“As the industry regulator, the General Commission for Audiovisual Media has started the process for licensing cinemas in the Kingdom,” Awwad bin Saleh Alawwad, minister of culture and information, said in a statement. “We expect the first cinemas to open in March 2018.”
Saudis have welcomed the news on social media, reacting with tears, memes or dance moves:
Commentators and filmmakers also weighed in on the importance of this move:
Not to be taken lightly. My parents left Saudi in 1980s partly because they wanted us exposed to the world and things like lack of cinemas (among other issues of course) came up. These things matter when attracting foreign talent/investment. https://t.co/KuzOgzDOpP
— Maria Abi-Habib (@Abihabib) December 11, 2017
The ministry said there will be over 300 movie theaters and around 2,000 screens built in the country by 2030.