Saudi issues cinema regulation as first venues prepare to open

The kingdom announced it would be lifting its 35-year cinema ban in December



Saudi Arabia’s Ministry of Culture and Information has approved new regulation governing the operation of cinemas as the kingdom lifts a decades-long ban.

The government announced it would be lifting the 35-year cinema ban in December and the first screenings have already taken place in temporary settings.

Read: Saudi Arabia says cinemas will be allowed from early 2018

Read: Saudi Arabia begins screening films after lifting of cinema ban

Permanent theatres are expected to open as early as this month.

The ministry said on its website it had established regulation for three types of licences: to establish a cinema venue, to practice cinema operations and to operate cinemas in both fixed and temporary categories.

Culture and information minister Awad bin Saleh Al Awwad said cinemas would be a catalyst for the services and leisure sector and provide job opportunities for citizens.

He “pointed out that the goal is to establish a media industry capable of competing with the best media markets in the region, as well as the ability to protect the public from inappropriate content and support the production of positive content,” according to the announcement.

“The re-launch of cinemas in the kingdom represents a pivotal turning point towards building a cultural economy, reviving the cultural scene in the kingdom, tapping Saudi talent and building a vibrant society through local content support strategies.”

Several international companies have expressed an interest in establishing cinemas in the kingdom including US-based AMC Entertainment Holdings, which has plans for a business venture with the kingdom’s Public Investment Fund.

Read: Saudi sovereign fund plans cinema venture

The government expects to open more than 300 cinemas with 2,000 screens by 2030 and build a local industry that will contribute more then SAR90bn ($24bn) to the economy and create 30,000 permanent jobs.

A survey released in December by research agency Kantar TNS found that 67 per cent of respondents planned to visit cinemas when they opened and nine in 10 said they planned to visit malls with cinemas more often.

Read: Nearly 7 in 10 Saudis plan to visit cinemas