On Monday, Saudi Arabia announced that it has lifted a ban imposed in the 1980s on commercial movie theaters. "As the industry regulator, the General Commission for Audiovisual Media has started the process for licensing cinemas in the kingdom," Awwad bin Saleh Alawwad, the minister of culture and information, said in a statement. "We expect the first cinemas to open in March 2018." The opening of cinemas is the latest reform attributed to Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, 32, including allowing women to drive next year and permits for concerts and other types of entertainment.
The move was expected, industry sources tell The Hollywood Reporter, with investors already having built theaters inside new developments. Alawwad celebrated the decision as both an economic and cultural "watershed moment" for the conservative kingdom. "By developing the broader cultural sector, we will create new employment and training opportunities, as well as [enrich] the kingdom's entertainment options," he said. Cinemas were shut down in the first place amid a wave of religious conservatism.