We recently told you Saudi Arabia will soon allow women to drive. Now the country has officially lifted a 35-year cinema ban by screening its first film in decades. “The Emoji Movie” was played in temporary settings, like state-run cultural halls, making it the first movie viewed in the country in years.
The ban was put in place in the 1980’s as a push towards a more conservative and religious society that discouraged public entertainment and public mixing between men and women. Reforms by their young Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman have eased restrictions like these, in an effort to be less dependent on oil.
Mamdouh Salim has been organizing the week long screenings which also included showings of “Captain Underpants: The First Epic Movie.” She says, “until now, there is no infrastructure for movie theater, so we are trying to take advantage of [alternative] venues.” There are plans to build over 300 cinemas by 2030, with the first few opening this spring.