Saudi Arabia to Lift 35-Year Movie Theater Ban

Film fans, directors and movie chains rejoice as Saudi Arabia lifts as multi-decade ban on cinemas, opening up a large market for media properties.

GLOBAL–Saudi Arabia has overturned a 35-year-old law that made movie theaters illegal in the kingdom, exciting theater chains and distributors who see vast potential in the untapped market, according to Variety.

Movie theaters were banned in the 1980s, considered a threat to the socially conservative country’s religious and cultural identity. The new resolution allows the Culture Ministry to license commercial cinemas. Cinemas are now expected to open in the country as early as next March.

The large-scale move is the latest in a number of social and economic reforms driven by Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salam under the Vision 2030 banner. According to The New York Times the program aims to “open up the kingdom’s economy and near-total dependence on oil.”