06:34 GMT13 August 2020
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    After a three-decade-long ban, Saudi Arabia will finally see its first cinema open on April 18 in the capital Riyadh, state media said on Wednesday.

    The Saudi Ministry of Culture and Information signed an agreement earlier in the day with American AMC Entertainment Holdings Inc. to open 30 to 40 cinemas in about 15 Saudi cities over the next five years, and up to 100 cinemas in 25 cities by 2030.

    The movie industry is expected to contribute about $24 billion to the economy and provide more than 30,000 permanent jobs. The Ministry of Culture has notably pointed out that the films shown in cinemas will be in line with "Sharia’s law and the moral values." 

    Saudi Arabia Deputy Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman
    © AP Photo / Etienne Oliveau/Pool

    Saudi Arabia had some public cinemas in the 1970s, but the nation’s clerics banned them all in the early 1980s in a move that pointed to the spiking Islamist influence throughout the Arab region at the time.

    Wednesday’s announcement comes at the time of Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman’s official visit to the US. MBS, as he’s known, met with Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti and media industry leaders, including Rupert Murdoch and Warner Bros. CEO Kevin Tsujihara.

    The crown prince has famously introduced the so-called Vision 2030 program envisioning the country’s development in a range of spheres, including culture. Most notably, it has set a target of raising Saudi Arabia’s yearly spending on cultural and recreational activities from 2.9 percent of total Saudi household spending to 6 percent by 2030.

    Adam Aron, CEO of AMC, said Wednesday that the company is following with great admiration how the most creative development projects in the kingdom are opening new economic sectors:

    "We are looking forward to providing entertainment services that will enable everyone to spend an enjoyable time playing world-class film shows across the Kingdom."

    AMC Theaters is an American movie theater chain owned and operated by Wanda Group. Founded in 1920, AMC has the largest share of the American theater market ahead of Regal Entertainment Group and Cinemark Theaters.

    movies, culture, cinemas, Mohammed bin Salman, Saudi Arabia
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