Saudi Arabia Lifts Ban on Cinema After 35 Years

The Saudi General Authority for Audiovisual Media, which is headed by Culture and Information Minister Awwad Saleh Alawwad, approved to begin granting licenses to cinemas in the kingdom within a period that does not exceed 90 days.

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.

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.

Saudi Arabia's Ministry of Culture and Information announced on December 11 that it would allow cinemas to operate beginning in early 2018, 35 years after Risky Business and Flashdance made a splash in theaters.

"This marks a watershed moment in the development of the cultural economy in the Kingdom", Alawwad added.

Since then, people have used their television sets, DVD's or the internet as their primary sources of entertainment.

Movie theaters were shut down in the 1980s during a wave of ultraconservatism in the country.

The crown prince is behind measures such as lifting a ban on women driving, starting next year, and bringing back concerts and other forms of entertainment to satiate the desires of the country's young population.

"About 230,000 tourists from the kingdom went to the United Arab Emirates in the summer of 2010 simply for the sake of watching movies", the mayor of Riyadh, Prince Abdulaziz bin Ayyaf, told The National, earlier this year.

It certainly appears that they will be needed - Saudi Arabia's Ministry of Culture and information has promised that movies will be censored and edited to ensure that they don't "contradict with Sharia laws and moral values in the Kingdom".

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