Close
Date TimeDecember 11, 2017
VoiceAccording to Monday’s announcement, the first cinemas are expected to open in March 2018 in Saudi Arabia.

Saudi Arabia to allow movie theatres for first time in more than 35 years

RIYADH, SAUDI ARABIA—Saudi Arabia announced on Monday it will allow movie theatres to open in the conservative kingdom next year, for the first time in more than 35 years, in the latest social push by the country’s young crown prince.
It’s the latest stark reversal in a county where movie theatres were shut down in the 1980’s during a wave of ultraconservatism in the country. Many of Saudi Arabia’s clerics view Western movies and even Arabic films made in Egypt and Lebanon as sinful.
Despite decades of ultraconservative dogma, Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman has sought to ram through a number of major social reforms with support from his father, King Salman.
The crown prince is behind measures such as lifting a ban on women driving next year and bringing back concerts and other forms of entertainment to satiate the desires of the country’s majority young population. The 32-year-old heir to the throne’s social push is part of his so-called Vision 2030, a blueprint for the country that aims to boost local spending and create jobs amid sustained lower oil prices.
The Saudi government said a resolution was passed Monday paving the way for licenses to be granted to commercial movie theatres, with the first cinemas expected to open in March 2018.
Many Saudis took to Twitter to express their joy at the news, posting images of buckets of movie theatre popcorn and moving graphics of people dancing, fainting and crying.
“It’s spectacular news. We are in a state of shock,” said Saudi actor and producer, Hisham Fageeh.
Fageeh starred in and co-produced the Saudi film Barakah Meets Barakah by director Mahmoud Sabbagh, which premiered at the Berlin International Film Festival in February. The movie, which has been called the kingdom’s first romantic comedy, tells the story of a civil servant who falls for a Saudi girl whose Instagram posts have made her a local celebrity.
“We are essentially pioneers because we all took risks to work in this industry,” he said. “We were super lucky, because luck is always a factor of whether we make it or not.”
Even with the decades-long ban on movie theatres, Saudi filmmakers and movie buffs were able to circumvent traditional censors by streaming movies online and watching films on satellite TV. Many also travel to neighbouring countries like Bahrain and the United Arab Emirates to go to movie theatres.
One Saudi Twitter on Monday user posted a picture of the causeway linking Saudi Arabia with Bahrain, writing "Good bye."
It was not immediately clear if movie theatres would have family-only sections, segregating women and families from male-only audiences. Another unknown was whether most major Hollywood, Bollywood and Arabic movie releases would be shown in theatres and how heavily edited the content will be.
In a statement carried on the state-run Saudi Press Agency, the Ministry of Culture and Information said that movie content "will be subject to censorship" to ensure films do not contradict Islamic law, or Shariah, and the kingdom's moral values.
The government said it will announce additional regulations in the coming weeks.
Fageeh said that while he’s concerned with the censorship rules that might be in place, he’s also concerned that scenes of violence are typically permitted on screens across the Arab world, but “any kind of intimacy and love is considered taboo and a moral violation.”
“It’s a global conversation we need to have,” he said.
Despite there being no movie theatres in Saudi Arabia, young Saudi filmmakers have received government support and recognition in recent years.
The government has backed a Saudi film festival that’s taken place for the past few years in the eastern city of Dhahran. This year, some 60 Saudi films were screened.
The film Wadjda made history in 2013 by becoming the first Academy Award entry for Saudi Arabia, though it wasn’t nominated for the Oscars. The movie follows the story of a 10-year-old girl who dreams of having a bicycle, just like boys have in her ultraconservative neighbourhood where men and women are strictly segregated and where boys and girls attend separate schools. The film was written and directed by Saudi female director Haifaa al-Mansour, who shot the film entirely in the kingdom.
That film and Barakah meets Barakah, though four years apart, tackle the issue of gender segregation in Saudi Arabia, which remains largely enforced.
The Saudi government says the opening of movie theatres will contribute more than $30.8 billion to the economy and create more than 30,000 jobs by 2030. The kingdom says there will be 300 cinemas with around 2,000 screens built in the country by 2030.
Fageeh said it’s important the government provides even greater support to local filmmakers now that international films will dominate theatres.
“There needs to be an effort to be cognizant and inclusive for this element of local films or we will be completely flushed out because of the nature of capitalism and will be operating in the margins,” he said.

Vladimir Putin announces Russian withdrawal from Syria during visit to airbase 
Golden Globes nominations: 'Shape of Water,' 'Big Little Lies' lead
New York explosion: Man in custody after 'attempted terrorist attack'
'I don't have to be very clever to do my job', says Brexit Secretary David Davis 
California wildfire is ‘bigger than New York City’ and now fifth largest in state history
North Korea in ‘hot phase’: Russia will act with China and India in World War 3 warning
REVEALED: South Korea EXPLOITING nuclear war with North Korea to make billions of pounds
Elusive Tesla semi truck spotted taking a cruise
'The Florida Project' Named Best Film by the San Francisco Film Critics Circle
3 arrests after Swedish synagogue firebombed in anti-Semitic attack
Ambassador Haley says Trump accusers have right to be heard
Daughter: Why does Woody Allen get a pass?
Max Clifford dies in hospital aged 74
As Putin Announces ’18 Presidential Bid, ‘SUPERPUTIN’ Exhibition Opens In Moscow
Protesters and police clash outside US Embassy in Beirut
BITCOIN BOOM: Cryptocurrency will SMASH $100,000 mark by 2020, expert predicts
'SNL' Takes on Sexual Harassment, "Liberal White Women" in James Franco-Hosted Episode
The Jerusalem Issue, Explained
'SNL' Tackles "Naughty List Members" Matt Lauer, Roy Moore, Al Franken in Cold Open
Roy Moore, Jerusalem and LGBT rights: Why is religion so divisive?
'Time is of the essence,' UN official says after North Korea visit
Apple Watch update now allows ultimate way to track your sessions in the gym
Johnny Hallyday funeral sees more than 100,000 line Paris streets for incredible send off
'The Square' Wins 2017 European Film Awards
Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe: Boris Johnson Tells Iranians Of 'Grave Concerns' Over Imprisoned British Woman
Iraq formally declares end to fight against Islamic State
Israeli airstrikes kill two in Gaza as fallout from Trump decision continues
Boris Johnson arrives in Iran to discuss release of Zaghari-Ratcliffe
Obama invokes Nazi Germany in speech
CNN Corrects Report About Trump Campaign and WikiLeaks Tip
Ex-Fox News anchor Juliet Huddy says Trump kissed her on the lips after a lunch
America ‘cannot afford’ Roy Moore loss in Alabama, Trump says
National Geographic photographer shares emotional video of dying polar bear
Why 'Game of Thrones' Won't Return Until 2019
Supreme Court temporarily freezes DACA document request
TIME TRAVEL: US developed time travel at height of Cold War but was too dangerous to use
Casey Affleck's low annual salary revealed in court documents
Dina Powell, deputy national security adviser, to depart Trump White House
May’s Brexit WINS: Britain secures concessions from EU on citizens' rights and the bill
Palestinian killed in Gaza while protesting Donald Trump’s decision on Israel
Trump and son Trump Jr. received email offering WikiLeaks documents: report
Putin to Saudi energy minister: buy our gas, save your oil
'Get Out' Named Best Film by Washington D.C.-Area Film Critics
12 UN peacekeepers killed, 40 wounded in attack in Congo, officials say
Bali volcano update LIVE: Mount Agung ERUPTS AGAIN - ash plume rises 2km
Brexit divorce bill REVEALED: Barnier confirms UK will have to pay £40BILLION - in EUROS
California fires: Why is everything burning?
Al Qaeda calls for attacks against US and its allies over Jerusalem policy
'Wonder Woman' Among AFI's Top Movies, TV Shows for 2017
Russian social media executive sought to help Trump campaign in 2016, emails show
Elon Musk Dares Boeing CEO to Beat Him to Mars
Alec Baldwin Defends Comments About Sexual Harassment Accusers on 'Megyn Kelly Today'
Boris Johnson headed to Iran to push for release of detained nationals
New Mexico high school shooting leaves two dead, plus shooter, police say
New York horror: Car hits multiple people in Manhattan – Emergency services on scene
Hackers steal $64 million from cryptocurrency firm NiceHash
Israeli Police Fire Tear Gas And Stun Grenades On Palestinian Protestors
Join our United States of Europe or ELSE! Top German politician in extraordinary ultimatum
Amid calls to resign, Al Franken to make a statement
'The Crown' looks polished in regal second season
California wildfires: winds pose ‘extreme danger’ for Los Angeles
North Korea faces invasion by ROBOTS as South develops drone division to swarm Pyongyang
General Electric (GE) is cutting 12,000 jobs
Australia Legalises Same-Sex Marriage
Putin Confirms He Is Running for President
White House officials: Jerusalem decision could hurt peace process
Millions of dollars may have been stolen in bitcoin hack
'Declaration of WAR' Mass fury worldwide as Trump recognises Jerusalem as Israel capital
One quarter of Democratic senators call for Franken's resignation
Trump recognizes Jerusalem as Israel's capital
Katy Perry wins millions in battle with nuns
Trump set to make historic Jerusalem announcement
'The Silence Breakers' are Time's Person of the Year
Should Elon Musk merge Tesla and SpaceX?
Russian plane VIOLATES EU airspace - Finland fury on eve of independence celebrations
French President Macron visits Algeria to boost cooperation
Google pulls YouTube from Amazon devices, escalating spat
Trump's Jerusalem moves spark a fire in the Middle East
CHINA preparing to JOIN forces with North Korea in WORLD WAR 3 warns military expert
Ventura County wildfire rages over 50,000 acres, reaches Pacific Ocean as it jumps 101 Freeway
Colin Kaepernick accepts Muhammad Ali Legacy Award from Beyonce
Tracee Ellis Ross Shares Children's Book "The Handsy Man" to Teach About Sexual Harassment
Why declaring Jerusalem as the capital of Israel is so controversial
Facebook's Messenger Kids Gives Parents Control Over App
BITCOIN may become the new GOLD says JP Morgan analysts
Can Mars support human life? NASA project aims to colonise the red planet by 2030s
Russia’s Olympic team barred from 2018 Winter Games
Trudeau says he raised human rights, death penalty, in meeting with Chinese premier
Donald Trump is regarded by Germans as bigger threat than Russia and North Korea
Trump Lawyer Says President Is Innocent Because Collusion Is Not A Crime
How the past 24 hours have changed Brexit
Report: Deutsche Bank subpoenaed for Trump account data
Dustin Hoffman confronted over abuse allegations by John Oliver at public Q&A
Saudi Arabia hopes U.S. will not recognize Jerusalem as capital of Israel
Google is hiring 10,000 reviewers to clean up YouTube
California wildfire: One dead as Santa Ana winds spread blaze through Ventura County
Google launches Android Oreo Go edition for low-end phones
‘The Voice’: Top 10 Sing for America’s Vote
Israel 'target' Syria military with MISSILE ATTACK as Middle East tensions rise
Jimmy Fallon Rocks Out In Bruce Springsteen-Inspired "Robert Mueller's Comin' to Town"
Sexual Abuse Happens In #ChurchToo. We’re Living Proof
Facebook loves London. It's creating 800 new jobs
Supreme Court allows Trump travel ban to take full effect
Oscars: 20 Films Move Forward in Visual Effects Race
#MeToo Movement In Running For Time’s Person Of The Year
Lamborghini unveils world's fastest SUV
Australia to probe Facebook, Google over media disruption
Trump says he feels 'very badly' for Flynn
Saleh's death redraws Yemen's landscape, sharpens Saudi-Iran rivalry
Jessica Alba wants more women leaders at The Honest Company
Yemen's former President Ali Abdullah Saleh has been killed in Sanaa
US and South Korea begin largest-ever joint air drill as Pyongyang slams 'insane' Donald Trump
US military agency invests $100m in genetic extinction technologies
'Call Me by Your Name' Selected as Best Picture by L.A. Film Critics Association
Mars is within reach after NASA announces revolutionary plans for 'deep space gateway'
Billy Bush: I Believe The Women Accusing Trump Of Sexual Misconduct
It's all women this week on 'Today' and 'CBS This Morning'
Tony Blair Says He's Working To Reverse Brexit: 'It’s Not Done Until It’s Done'
Elon Musk declares 'world’s fastest car' will be LAUNCHED TO MARS playing David Bowie song
Trump Attacks The FBI On Twitter, Urges Followers To Sue ABC News
Trump Withdraws U.S. From UN Migrant And Refugee Compact
Trump says he never asked Comey to stop Flynn probe
Wi-Fi network named 'Bomb on Board' forced airplane to make emergency landing
The Latest: UAE denies claim of Yemen missile attack
US general: Russia, China building weapons to target US satellites
Trade, not human rights, is top of mind as Trudeau visits China
'SNL' Female Cast Members Sing "Welcome to Hell" Sexual Harassment Song
Trump May Move U.S. Embassy In Israel To Jerusalem. Here’s Why That Matters
FBI agent removed from Mueller investigation over anti-Trump messages
Pope explains why he didn't use the word 'Rohingyas' in Myanmar
BREAKING: Two police officers shot in France - siege underway
All You Need to Know About Bitcoin's Rise, From $0.01 to $11000
North Korea: Trump is 'begging for nuclear war'
Review: The Crown season two on Netflix ★★★★☆
Karl Darlow: Point at West Brom shows Newcastle's fighting spirit
Google Chrome SHOCK - Incognito mode will NOT stop your boss finding out what you searched
North Korea is already a nuclear power. The U.S. needs to deal with it
North Korea: WATCH moment thousands rejoice after Kim Jong-un's rocket launch
NBC Not Planning to Pay Out Matt Lauer's Salary
Elon Musk will send his Tesla Roadster to Mars on a giant rocket
Gunman opens fire at California hospital
Russia plan for MILITARY intervention in North Korea to stop a NUCLEAR apocalypse
Key players in the Michael Flynn investigation
Jimbo Fisher’s $75M move isn’t supposed to happen in college football
Trump, on Twitter, says Tillerson will remain as top U.S. diplomat
Russia Says U.S. Media Will Be Banned From Parliament
Apple And Stanford University Launch Heart Study On Apple Watch
Ex-Trump national security adviser Michael Flynn pleads guilty after lying to FBI
Christmas market TERROR: German police called to BOMB in Potsdam – near Berlin
The World Cup draw is complete: See the groups
Former Catalan leaders appear before supreme court in Madrid
Tearful Selena Gomez Honors Life-Saving BFF At Billboard Women In Music Ceremony
Apple Pay and App Store updated for World AIDS Day: How to donate when you make a payment
Meghan Markle and Harry FIRST PICTURES: Meghan attends royal engagement in Nottingham
Tesla just switched on the world's biggest lithium-ion battery in Australia
'Six minutes until oblivion' North Korea will not give Seoul time to stop NUCLEAR strike
Saudi Air Force destroys ballistic missile launched from Yemen
Jimmy Kimmel takes on Roy Moore: 'I accept the invitation'
Jim Nabors, TV's the lovably naive Gomer Pyle, dies at 87
'Lady Bird' Named Best Picture by New York Film Critics Circle
OPEC and allies extend oil production cuts by 9 months
Theresa May says she is not afraid to criticise Donald Trump
What’s Barack up to? Obama to jet into Paris for ‘secret’ talks with Emmanuel Macron
London mayor hits Trump over anti-Muslim videos
Matt Lauer Speaks Out After Firing From 'Today' Show Over Sexual Abuse
Jay-Z admits to cheating on Beyonce and says music was their 'therapy'
North Korea's new Hwasong-15 missile: What the photos show
Trump Attacks China For Having ‘No Impact On Little Rocket Man’
Jared Kushner questioned about Michael Flynn in Mueller's Russia probe, reports say
U.S. and China hold security talks amid tensions over latest North Korea missile test
Elon Musk calls for URGENT laws on robots as they will soon be RISK to public
Donald Trump attacks Theresa May over her criticism of his far-right retweets
Report Claims Matt Lauer Gave Sex Toy, Exposed Himself To Female Employees
Slobodan Praljak, Bosnian war criminal dies after swallowing poison in court
Bitcoin at $11,000: What the heck is going on?
Bali volcano REVERSE global warming: NASA say Mount Agung could plunge earth into ice age
North Korea News: KREMLIN behind North Korea’s missiles? ICBM is copy of SOVIET nuke
Anthony Harvey, Oscar-Nominated Director of 'The Lion in Winter,' Dies at 87
Theresa May makes secret visit to Iraq
ESPN Cutting 150 Employees
Amazon's Cyber Monday was its biggest sales day ever
Trump retweets anti-Muslim videos
Trump Speaks Out On North Korea Missile Launch
UK could pay £50bn Brexit divorce bill after bowing to EU pressure
Jesus Christ tomb shock: Test results on holy site add PROOF tomb IS that of Christ
Major Apple security flaw grants admin access on macOS High Sierra without password
BREAKING: Kim Jong-un declares North Korea now a 'FULL nuclear force' that can strike US
Build fast, fix later: speed hurts quality at Tesla, some workers say
Ellen DeGeneres Reacts to Prince Harry, Meghan Markle Engagement
British Actress Accuses Harvey Weinstein of Sex Trafficking in Lawsuit
Report: Trump continues to question Obama's birth certificate
What to expect from Ivanka Trump’s whirlwind two-day ‘royal visit’ to India
World War 3 fears: North Korea launches ballistic missile - South Korea FIRES rocket back
Germany CHAOS: Merkel humiliated as minister IGNORES her orders on EU vote
Airbnb now lets you split the cost of rentals
'Game of Thrones' gets its first Grammy nomination
‘I make Mommy moves’: Parody of Cardi B’s ‘Bodak Yellow’ captures reality of parenting
Angela Lansbury: attractive women 'must sometimes take the blame' for sexual harassment
Oscars: Canada's 'Hochelaga, Land of Souls' Chronicles Over 750 Years of Montreal History
Serena Williams' coach: No decision yet about Australian Open
Close