Cinema Ban in Saudi Arabia Lifted, Bringing New Opportunities to Filmmakers

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Saudi cinemas were outlawed in the early 1980s—now that's changing in a big way!

A three decade long cinema ban has been lifted in Saudi Arabia. This is ushering a new era for filmmakers in the country, who have previously endured harassment from authorities for their prohibited careers within the highly conservative area.

Saudi cinemas were outlawed in the early 1980s, following an ultra-conservative siege of the Grand Mosque in 1979. The ban is being lifted by Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman in concurrence with other efforts to reform and modernize the country (such as permitting women to drive and establishing more jobs/business opportunities in the country).

Filmmakers hope that the lifted cinema ban will encourage people to spend their money within Saudi Arabia, rather than going outside the border to attend cinemas and movies. The government hopes to make the country a regional hub for filmmaking as well as open about 350 theaters by 2030.

Before, permits for filming for TV and YouTube were attainable, but not movies. Now it should be much less difficult to acquire permits to film feature-length films. Also, it should be less likely to be deterred by religious police for having females and males on set together. It is expected that commercial movies will be allowed, but it will still be tough for females in the filmmaking business.

All movies shown in these cinemas will be subject to censorship, with strict rules like bans on nudity and criticizing the religious or political establishment. It is unclear what other regulations there will be at this time.

It will be interesting to see the films that will come from Saudi Arabia in the future.

Read more about how lifting the ban has already ushered in an era of change for the Saudi film market here!