Saudi Arabians will from 2018 be allowed to go to the cinema for the first time in over 30 years.

Saudi’s ministry of culture and information said it will start issuing movie licences from today and that the first theaters will begin opening from March 2018.

“This marks a watershed moment in the development of the cultural economy in the Kingdom,” Minister of Culture and Information Awwad Alawwad said in the statement.

“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.”

Movie theaters were first shut down in the 1980s, after many ultra-conservative clerics branded Western and other movies sinful.

By 2030 Saudi Arabia will have over 300 cinemas with around 2,000 screens the Saudi government confirmed.

Softening Stance

Issuing movie licences is the latest push in the Muslim kingdom’s social reform programme as it also attempts improve its image around the world.

Only two months ago newly appointed Saudi crown prince Mohammed bin Salman lifted a ban on Saudi women not being able to drive.

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