Saudi Arabia to reopen public cinemas for the first time in 35 years

  • A public cinema ban was introduced in Saudi Arabia in the 1980's
  • Saudi citizens should be able to return to cinemas by March next year
  • The cultural development is described as being part of the country's "Vision 2030" program
Saudi women attend the 'Short Film Competition 2' festival, a precursor to the expected lift on the kingdom's ban on cinemas.
Getty Images | Fayez Nureldine | AFP
Saudi women attend the 'Short Film Competition 2' festival, a precursor to the expected lift on the kingdom's ban on cinemas.

Saudi Arabia has said it will lift a ban on public cinemas that has been in place for more than three decades.

The Ministry of Culture and Information for Saudi Arabia said in a statement Monday that, after a hiatus of 35 years, it will begin licensing cinemas immediately.

The first movie theaters are set to open in March, with plans to have more than 2,000 screens up and running by 2030.

Religious hardliners forced the closure of cinemas in the 1980s, claiming they were a threat to Saudi religious identity.

The kingdom's culture ministry said the move was another strand of its "Vision 2030" social and economic reform plan for the country that is being pushed through by Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman.

Minister of Culture and Information Awwad Alawwad said the move "marks a watershed moment" in the development of Saudi's cultural economy.

According to Saudi authorities, Vision 2030 aims to increase Saudi household spending on cultural and entertainment activities from 2.9 percent to 6 percent by 2030.