Saudi Arabia ends decades-long ban on movie theaters

Saudi Arabia's bold reforms have met opposition from hardliners, who believe movie theaters threaten the country's religious and cultural identity.

The decision is a part of the young crown prince, Mohammed bin Salman's Vision 2030, a program created to socially reform the country.

The signing of the non-binding Memorandum of Understanding between the two entities, announced on Tuesday, came the day after Saudi Arabia announced the lifting of a 35-year ban on cinemas.

The ministry added that the government will begin licensing cinemas immediately.

The Ministry of Culture and Information said in a press statement that the General Commission for Audiovisual Media will begin preparing steps for executive procedures necessary to open cinemas in the Kingdom in its capacity as the regulator of this sector.

Authorities hope there will be more than 300 cinemas and 2,000 screens in the country by 2030, serving a population of more than 32 million people.

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"Opening cinemas will act as a catalyst for economic growth and diversification".

Saudi Arabia has lifted a decades-long ban on commercial cinemas operating in the country as part of ongoing plans to shift away from its current ultra-conservative social policies.

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".

Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman has tightened his grip on power through overturning established social norms in the kingdom since his rise to power in 2015.

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. However, he has also arrested several clerics and activists and detained senior princes and businessmen in what the government calls an anti-corruption campaign.

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