Saudi Arabia allows cinemas for the first time in 30 years

One of many changes the Crown Prince is making

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Saudi Arabian Crown Prince

Saudi Arabia has announced it will lift a ban on commercial cinemas that has lasted more than three decades.

The ministry of culture and information said it would begin issuing licences immediately and that the first cinemas were expected to open in March 2018.

The measure is part of Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman’s Vision 2030 social and economic reform programme.

The conservative Muslim kingdom had cinemas in the 1970s, but clerics persuaded authorities to close them.

As recently as January, Grand Mufti Sheikh Abdul Aziz Al al-Sheikh reportedly warned of the “depravity” of cinemas, saying they would corrupt morals if allowed.

Saudi Arabia’s royal family and religious establishment adhere to an austere form of Sunni Islam known as Wahhabism, and Islamic codes of behaviour and dress are strictly enforced.

The Crown Prince has made some sweeping changes including arresting many prominent figures in the authoritarian country – including member of the royal family itself.