Come 2018, Saudi Arabia says a ban on cinemas will be lifted as the conservative kingdom confirms that the first cinemas were likely to open early next year.
“As the industry regulator, the General Commission for Audiovisual Media has started the process for licensing cinemas in the Kingdom. We expect the first cinemas to open in March 2018”, Minister of Culture and Information Awwad bin Saleh Alawwad said in a statement.
The ban was made in the 1980s in response to Islamist extremism and as recently as January the possibility of lifting it was was still being dismissed by leading clerics.
The rules on film screenings have been relaxed in recent weeks with some screenings taking place as a precursor to the official lifting of the ban, according to Gulf News.
Religious hardliners see cinemas as a threat to cultural identity and was considered on of the ‘red lines’ that were not to be overturned – alongside women driving; a situation that was reversed in September 2017.