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Lifting of Saudi cinema ban draws range of reactions

While some hail move as good economic sense, others fear encroachment of western values

Anadolu Agency

Saudi Arabia’s recent lifting of a 35-year ban on cinemas has drawn a range of reactions from Saudi citizens.

While some believe the move will benefit the economy, others see it as yet another sign of encroaching western influence on the conservative kingdom.

Speaking to Anadolu Agency, Sultan al-Bazighi, a former head of Saudi Arabia’s Art and Culture Association, described the decision as a “positive step”.

“It will create a fresh cultural environment, while helping the economy and reducing unemployment,” he said.

“I expect the new cinema industry will become big business in Saudi Arabia,” he added.

Although cinemas have been banned for the last 35 years, al-Bazighi noted, most Saudis have still been able to watch the latest films online or during trips overseas.

Late last year, the Saudi Culture Ministry announced plans to allow movie theaters to operate in the oil-rich kingdom as of March of this year.

Not everyone supports the idea, however.

Sahm al-Layl, a Saudi citizen who opposes the move, told Anadolu Agency: “Since we don’t have local films to show in the cinemas, this step will inevitably lead to the further spread of western culture.”

The Saudi authorities banned cinemas countrywide during the mid-1980s.

The decision to reverse the ban comes as part of a raft of reforms introduced by King Salman bin Abdulaziz, who last year also announced his decision to allow women to drive -- a move set to take effect in June.

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