Saudi Arabia Lifts Movie Theatre Ban After 35 Years, Emoji Movie Among The First Shown

Movie theatres had been banned since the 1980s.


Saudi Arabia banned movie theatres back in the early '80s, but this ban was lifted back in December. One of the first screenings took place this past weekend, and it was a double feature of The Emoji Movie and Captain Underpants: The First Epic Movie. The movies were shown at a makeshift theatre in the city of Jeddah, according to a report from Reuters.

Movie theatres had been banned in Saudi Arabia for 35 years. The ban in the 80s came as a result of "pressure from Islamists as Saudi society turned towards a particularly conservative form of religion that discouraged public entertainment and public mixing between men and women," Reuters reported.

Saudi Arabia's 32-year-old Crown Prince, Mohammed bin Salman, pushed a number of reforms to help bring movie theatres to the country. The first permanent movie theatres in Saudi Arabia could open in March, and the aim is for 300 cinemas and 2,000 screens to be available by 2030. The Saudi Arabian film industry is expected to add $24 billion to the country's economy and create 30,000 jobs.

Films shown in Saudi Arabia will be censored to keep with the nation's "moral values," though it is unclear what specific changes will be made to films to comply.

This is a big move for the historically ultra-conservative Saudi Arabia, which previously banned concerts. Additionally, Saudi Arabia only recently gave women the right to drive and attend public soccer matches, according to The New York Times.

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