Saudi Arabia Gets Progressive: Letting Women Drive and Now This...

Saudi Arabian women are now allowed to drive and soon they may be able to drive to the theater to see a movie.


Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman’s campaign to modernize the oppressive Islamic society includes legalizing commercial movie theaters which have been banned for the last 35 years.

The moves to allow access by early 2018, part of a broad campaign by the crown prince, Mohammed bin Salman, to transform Saudi society, followed measures that would give women the right to drive and to attend soccer games, and that would allow concerts and other forms of public entertainment.

Although satellite television and video downloads have made the ban on commercial theaters all but irrelevant, , the announcement highlights the diminishing power of the kingdom’s conservative clerics. The grand mufti, Saudi Arabia’s highest religious authority, publicly called commercial films a source of “depravity” and opposed the opening of movie theaters as recently as a few months ago.

And opening the door to such changes raises suspenseful questions about how far they will go, beginning with the issue of what movies will be shown and how they may be censored.

Saudi censorship may lead to much shorter versions of commercial films but this is still a move forward.

Prince Mohammed, the 32-year-old favorite son of King Salman, 81, has amassed a degree of personal power without precedent in Saudi Arabia, and he has indicated no interest in political reforms to parallel his program of opening up the economy and social rules. The most prominent cleric the crown prince has jailed, Salman al-Awda, was known for advocating loosening social rules while putting in place democratic political changes, and he appears to have been detained for the latter.

The prince has promised that he will use his power to move Saudi Arabia toward a more tolerant form of Islam than its religious establishment has promoted in the kingdom and around the world for decades.


According to The Hollywood Reporter, the move is not entirely unexpected.

Speaking to The Hollywood Reporter, many insiders working in Saudi Arabia indicated that this move had been widely expected, with investors already having built cinemas within new developments in anticipation of the official announcement.

“This marks a watershed moment in the development of the cultural economy in the kingdom,” Alawwad added. “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 [enrich] the kingdom’s entertainment options.”

Not everyone is pleased though, as you might expect.

It will be interesting to see if they allow movies like Justice League to be shown. In other parts of the Middle East the movie is banned because of Wonder Woman being portrayed by Israeli actress Gal Godot.



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