As reported by numerous news outlets, in a landmark decision, the General Commission of Audio Visual Media in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia (KSA), Chaired by the Minister of Culture and Information, Dr. Awwad Alawwad, has announced that commercial cinemas will be allowed to operate in the Kingdom as of early 2018.
The announcement will see the opening of the first cinemas in KSA since they were banned in 1979. It represents a significant and integral step as part of the Kingdom's implementation of its Vision 2030 programme, an ambitious programme of social and economic reform designed to diversify Saudi Arabia's economy from its historic reliance on oil.
Welcomed by Saudi Arabia's 32 million residents, the announcement also represents an important milestone for local filmmakers, as well as a significant opportunity for international producers, distributors, and cinema operators alike.
It is expected that the re-introduction of cinemas will contribute more than 90 billion riyals (USD $23.99 billion) to KSA's GDP by 2030, creating more than 30,000 permanent jobs and more than 130,000 temporary jobs.
With the aim of having the first cinemas open their doors by March 2018, there will of course be a challenge in ensuring a suitably robust and transparent licensing, regulation, censorship and approval framework is put in place to allow the opening of cinemas to flourish.