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Saudi Arabia to allow movie theaters for first time in decades

RIYADH, Saudi Arabia — Saudi Arabia announced on Monday it will allow movie theaters 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.

Movie theaters 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 as sinful.

However, since Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman ascended to power under his father, King Salman, he has pushed for greater social openings 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 has also sought ways to boost local spending and create jobs amid lower oil prices.

According to Monday’s announcement, a resolution was passed paving the way for licenses to be granted to commercial movie theaters, with the first cinemas expected to open in March 2018.

Saudi filmmakers and movie buffs have been able to circumvent traditional censors by streaming movies online and watching films on satellite TV. Many also travel to neighboring countries like Bahrain and the United Arab Emirates to go to movie theaters.

Despite there being no movie theaters 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

Article source: https://nypost.com/2017/12/11/saudi-arabia-to-allow-movie-theaters-for-first-time-in-decades/

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