E-tailer Noon launches in Saudi Arabia

E-tailer Noon launches in Saudi Arabia

E-tailer Noon launches in Saudi Arabia

Saudi Arabia's main sovereign wealth fund said it planned to enter the cinema business with major US -based movie exhibition company AMC Entertainment Holdings, as the conservative kingdom lifts a 35-year-old ban on cinemas.

But Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman has sought to implement a number of major social changes with support from his father, King Salman.

Cinemas were banned during the 1970's by an ultra-conservative government as they considered movie theatres to be a corrupt influence and a potential threat to religious and cultural identity.

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"This marks a watershed moment in the development of the cultural economy in the Kingdom", Alawwad added.

Minister of Culture and Information Awwad bin Saleh Alawwad said in a statement: "As the industry regulator, the General Commission for Audiovisual Media has started the process for licensing cinemas in the Kingdom". It was hardliners such as these who played a leading role in shutting down theaters in the 1980s.

In September, Saudi Arabia lifted a ban on women driving, and in October the country made a decision to allow women into sports stadiums.

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The middle eastern country recently also announced lifting several other bans like women will now be able to drive, attend sports events, among others. The first movie theater is expected to open by March 2018, and the government estimates that by 2030, there will be 300 theaters (with 2,000 screens) in Saudi Arabia. Indeed, as recent as this January, Saudi Arabia's highest-ranking cleric spoke of the "depravity" of cinema.

"Movies would be submitted to a committee of censorship which will ensure that their content respects the values of the Saudi society and does not contravene the laws in force", stressed the ministry.

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