Saudi Arabia lifts ban on cinemas: Government

20 2017 shows Saudi women attending the

"This marks a watershed moment in the development of the cultural economy in the kingdom", said Information Minister Awwad Alawwad in a statement.

The Saudi Ministry of Culture and Information said this week that it would lift the ban on cinemas, which has been in place for more than 35 years, by March 2018.

The decision is a part of the young crown prince, Mohammed bin Salman's Vision 2030, a program created to socially reform the country. Dubai-based mall operator Majid Al Futtaim, which owns VOX Cinemas, said it wanted to open the first movie theatre there.

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Saudi Arabia's bold reforms have met opposition from hardliners, who believe movie theaters threaten the country's religious and cultural identity. Cinemas have been been illegal since the early 1980s when Islamic laws were tightened in response to the threat of growing fundamentalism in the kingdom, says the Financial Times.

Since then, people have used their television sets, DVD's or the internet as their primary sources of entertainment.

The crown prince is behind measures such as lifting a ban on women driving, starting next year, and bringing back concerts and other forms of entertainment to satiate the desires of the country's young population.

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But it's worth noting that the 2016 Global Gender Gap Report by the World Economic Forum ranked the kingdom of Saudi Arabia 141 out of 144 countries on gender parity.

Saudi Arabia began closing movie theaters after it embraced an extremely conservative interpretation of Islam in 1979.

Officials expect the first cinemas to open in March 2018, although licences will start being issued immediately.

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The Ministry added: "The movies' content will be subject to censorship according to the Kingdom's media policy standards".

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