Saudi Cinema to Return in March 2018, Minister Al-Awwad Says

Saudi Arabia’s Ministry of Culture and Information has confirmed that commercial cinemas will be allowed to operate in the Kingdom as of March 2018, according to a statement by Minister Awwad Al-Awwad.

When the first cinema opens, it will be the first public cinema that has been permitted to operate in Saudi Arabia in 35 years.

The return of cinemas is both a boon for local filmmakers and the budding entertainment industry in the Kingdom, which has come into focus as part of the Saudi Arabia’s Vision 2030 economic and social reform plans.

Minister Al-Awwad, who was formerly Saudi Arabia’s Ambassador to Germany before accepting the top post at the Ministry of Culture and Information, said that as the industry regulator, the General Commission for Audiovisual Media, has started the process for licensing cinemas in the Kingdom.

“This marks a watershed moment in the development of the cultural economy in the Kingdom,” Al-Awwad said. “Opening cinemas will act as a catalyst for economic growth and diversification; by developing the broader cultural sector we will create new employment and training opportunities, as well as enriching the Kingdom’s entertainment options.”

There are currently few entertainment options in the Kingdom for Saudis and visitors, but authorities are working to change that. This year has seen the first-ever public performances of concerts by major international talents, the arrival of ComicCon and other public events aimed at making life in Saudi Arabia more enjoyable. Six Flags Entertainment Corp’s expansion into Saudi Arabia reportedly will include three parks, with the first to open in 2020 or 2021.

Saudi Arabia’s Public Investment Fund said in September it is in the process of developing a new company to act as its investment arm in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia’s growing entertainment sector.

The announcement comes at the end of a year of major reforms in Saudi Arabia, including the announcement that women will be allowed to drive starting in June of next year.