Let's Eat Some Popcorn. Saudi Arabia Has Removed Ban On Cinemas.

Monday this week, the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia announced that it has lifted the ban on the operations of Cinemas in the Arab Monarchy.  This comes amidst widespread speculations that the buyer of the record-breaking $450million, 500-year-old Leonardo da Vinci painting sold at an auction by Christie last month in New York is no other than Muhammmad Bin Salman, the Crown Prince of Saudi Arabia.

By this, the Kingdom is set to lift an over 35 years ban on cinema operation and allow commercial cinema commence operation early 2018. The Ministry of Culture and Information will begin licensing cinemas immediately. This is the first time that cinemas will be licensed since their ban in the early 1980s.

The Saudi Ministry of Culture and Information (MOCI) official declaration on Monday, December 11, 2017 says the first set of Movie Theater complexes are expected to open in March 2018, and by 2030, the expectation is to have over 300 cinemas with 2,000 screens across the Kingdom. This, the Minister of Culture and Communication, Dr. Awwad Alawwad described as a defining moment in the development of the cultural economy in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia which is part of the Vision 2030 social and economic reform programme under the leadership of Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman.

The decision to license cinemas seeks to encourage an open and rich domestic culture for Saudis. The move follows a variety of economic and social reforms including the announcement in a September Royal Decree by King Salman that women would be allowed to drive as of June 2018.

The lift on a ban on cinemas would complement two key pillars of the Vision 2030 programme – encouraging a vibrant society, including a rejuvenated entertainment sector; and nurturing a thriving economy that creates opportunities for all the people in the Kingdom.

Saudi Arabia’s Vision 2030 aims to rise household spending on cultural and entertainment activities from present 2.9% to 6% by 2030. The move will open up a domestic market for over 32 million people. It is projected that by 2030, the Kingdom will have opened over 300 cinemas, with over 2,000 screens.

Following this official pronouncement, international and regional music stars have started  having shows in Saudi Arabia, performing concerts that were once considered as taboos but which are increasingly becoming common.

Projections show that operation of cinema industry will have an economic impact that will boost the volume of the media market, inspire economic development and diversification by contributing more than 90 billion riyals, equivalent to USD $23.99 billion to Saudi GDP, creating more than 30,000 permanent jobs and more than 130,000 temporary jobs by 2030.