After more than 30 years in exile, Saudi Arabia has finally succumbed to letting cinemas reopen in its realm, as the Kingdom concentrates their efforts on economic growth and diversification.

Back in October, it was announced that there was an initiative in place to build and open cinemas, a vision which aligns itself to the Vision 2030 program which is headed by the Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman Al-Saud who has been proactively progressive in his thinking for the future of the Kingdom.

The Minister of Culture and Information Awwad bin Saleh Alawwad said, “Opening cinemas will act as a catalyst for economic growth and diversification; by developing the broader cultural sector we will create new employment and training opportunities, as well as enriching the Kingdom’s entertainment options.” The first movie houses are likely to open in March, per local reports.

Saudi Arabia’s board of the General Commission for Audiovisual Media passed a resolution allowing the authority to grant licenses to cinemas. Alawwad added, “This marks a watershed moment in the development of the cultural economy in the Kingdom.” By 2030, there are projected to be over 300 cinemas with more than 2,000 screens.

In the 1980s, there were some run down movie halls in Saudi Arabia, most of which were in Jeddah and Mecca, where Egyptian, Indian, and Turkish films were screened without government intervention. However, all these halls were closed due to the continuous objections of religious conservatives during the Islamic revival movement in the 1980s. As a political response to an increase in religious activism including the 1979 seizure of the Grand Mosque in Mecca, the government closed all cinemas.

Over 60% of the Saudi population are under the age of 30 and the record numbers attended Comic-Con in Jeddah proves that there is a major market waiting to be tapped into.