Saudi Arabia
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The Saudi Gazette has reported that the Kingdom will soon be opening cinema and theatres before the end of this year.

Former Minister of Cinema Committee, Fahd-al-Tamimi, said that no laws of the Ministry of Culture and Information obstruct the presence of cinemas in the country.

Earlier this year, the Chairman of General Entertainment Authority, while talking to an international news agency speculated that authorities might revise their decision of banning cinema.

Earlier this year, Mufti of Grand Mosque Sheikh Abdul Aziz on his website issued a statement, which dubbed the opening of cinemas and round-the-clock entertainment as going on route to contaminating the society with un-Islamic practices

This idea was initially floated by a Saudi official, Chairman GEA, Amr al-Madani, earlier this year, who stirred the debate and stated that cinemas would open this year and they would even consider holding a concert this year.

The entertainment sector in the Kingdom has a major opportunity for expansion, creating employment as well as revenues for the government. Within seven months it has already created 20,000 jobs and is expected to surpass the targets set under Vision 2030, last year. Spending on entertainment is expected to rise to 9% by 2030.

Read more: Pakistani Cinema’s Future: Issues beyond Raees, Mahira & Shahrukh Khan

Is this the real Arab Spring?

The series of changes being enforced under the goal of “Vibrant Nation”, part of the National Transformation Program as sketched out under the Saudi Vision 2030.

The Vision 2030 is an attempt by the Saudi authorities, to restructure various parts of the society and to rebrand Saudi Arabia as a progressive and diverse society.

The government has also recently given permission for a massive project of constructing the Six Flags Great Adventure Amusement Park, that is to be completed by 2022, near Riyadh

These changes have unfolded the real “Arab Spring” for the Saudi people.  They have lived under tight regime control on all aspects of their lives and were devoid of any hope of gaining personal emancipation.

Currently, 64% of the Saudi population, which is aged between 25 to 54 years, uses the internet as the only source of entertainment. The Kingdom has one of the highest internet penetration in the world with almost 85% of the population having access.

Saudi youth are proactive users of social media platforms. A recent study found that there are over 7.6 million users of Instagram in Saudi Arabia and that 85% of these users are aged between 18-44.

Read more: Vision 2030 vs Saudi ultra-conservatives

All this points to the massive demand for an entertainment outlet. This decision by the Saudi Authorities to set up cinemas will help channel this desire as well as increase opportunities for diversified economic growth.

The Vision 2030 is an attempt by the Saudi authorities, to restructure various parts of the society and to rebrand Saudi Arabia as a progressive and diverse society

The government has also recently given permission for a massive project of constructing the Six Flags Great Adventure Amusement Park, that is to be completed by 2022, near Riyadh.

Hardliners vs Muhammad Bin Salman

Yet these changes are not welcome by all. Earlier this year, Mufti of Grand Mosque Sheikh Abdul Aziz on his website issued a statement, which dubbed the opening of cinemas and round-the-clock entertainment as going on route to contaminating the society with un-Islamic practices.

Read more: Saudi women & Vision 2030: A test of Prince Salman’s reforms

Saudi Kings have long relied on unshakeable support from the clerics, since the day of Ibn Saud and Wahab. But the progressive changes implemented by the Crown Prince Muhammad Bin Salman are not fitting in well with the hardliners; he will face obstacles on many issues to get support from these groups of hardliners. The reversal of norms would be upsetting for hardliners to accept. Recently, a man was arrested for making a video message in which he threatened to kill any woman he saw driving.

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