Officials later said they would eliminate them entirely by 2020, part of Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman's Vision 2030 plan for the post-oil era. The first cinemas could be expected to open as early as March 2018, but Saudi Arabia could expect as many as 300 cinemas and 2000 screen to open their gates before 2030.
Saudi Arabia has announced that it will now issue permits to the commercial theatres, lifting a almost 35-year-old ban on cinema.
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. The Kingdom's budget deficit expanded to 15 per cent of GDP in 2015 and its economic growth rate has come to a grinding halt at 0.03 per cent.
Cinemas, once considered as a threat to cultural and religious identity in the ultra-conservative kingdom, were banned in the 1980s. For the last 35 years, cinemas have been banned in the kingdom; that changed on Monday, when the government announced that it was finally reversing the ban, according to the A.P.
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Like most public spaces in the Al-Saoud kingdom, movie theaters will have separate sections for men and women as well as a section for families. 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", Saudi actor and producer Hisham Fageeh tweeted.
"Movies would be submitted to a committee of censorship which will ensure that their content respects the values of the Saudi society and does not contravene the laws in force", stressed the ministry.
The development is coming about three months after the government granted Saudi women the right to drive cars for the first time in history.