Saudi Arabia Lifts 35-Yr Old Cinema Ban, Calls It 'Watershed Moment'

The Saudi government said a resolution was passed Monday to pave the way for licenses to be granted to commercial movie theaters, with the first cinemas expected to open in March.

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. "By developing the broader cultural sector we will create new employment and training opportunities, as well as enriching the kingdom's entertainment options", he added.

The lifting of the cinema ban is part of the Vision 2030 plan, which officials hope will see Saudi household spending on culture & entertainment rise from 2.9% to 6% by 2030. 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.

The initiative is the latest example of Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman progressing Saudi Arabia into the 21st century through a wave of social legislation that includes allowing women to drive and approving music concerts.

The project is also a part of a comprehensive reform program aimed at reducing the country's dependence on oil.

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.

"It's spectacular news. We are in a state of shock", said Hisham Fageeh, a Saudi actor and producer. He apparently has support from his father, King Salman, to address a number of social reforms.

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.

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