Today Saudi Arabia announced it will open cinemas in the Kingdom next year for the first time in 35 years.
The move is part of a series of social reforms by Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Salman to shake up the ultra-conservative Kingdom.
The government will begin licensing cinemas with the first cinema expected to open in March.
“This marks a watershed moment in the development of the cultural economy in the Kingdom,” the Culture and Information Ministry said in a statement.
The country is expected to have more than 300 cinemas with over 2,000 screens by 2030, according to the ministry.
The move is part of a recent change in the Kingdom; in recent months Saudi Arabia has organised music concerts, a Comic-Con pop culture festival and a mixed-gender national day celebration that saw people dancing in the streets for the first time.
The news was met with mixed reactions on social media. Using the hashtag #Cinemas_in_Saudi, Saudi’s welcomed the news.
“It is a beautiful day in #SaudiArabia!” Saudi female director Haifaa Al-Mansour said on Twitter.
— Haifaa Al Mansour (@HaifaaMansour) December 11, 2017
“I was happier about this decision than about driving and entering sports stadiums,” one Saudi woman tweeted.
انا فرحت بهالقرار اكثر من السواقه ومن دخول المباراة👏🏻❤️ #سينما_في_السعودية
— 𓆩Muhra alfahad𓆪 (@muhra_alfahad) December 11, 2017
Others asked their followers what they would name the first cinema if they had the chance
— مجلة سيدتي (@sayidatynet) December 11, 2017
One Twitter user (@MahaMostC) replied “Bin Salman hehehe”.
— Maha Mostafa (@MahaMostC) December 11, 2017
Another hashtag was also circulated #Cinema in Saudi with Sharia control, where Saudis linked the fact that the cinemas will most likely show films in line with religious regulations.
“The first film to be shown in Saudi cinemas,” @talarjani wrote in a tweet, showing a picture of a woman with a blurred face.
— طـلال العرجـاني (@talarjani) December 11, 2017
Libyan American Hend Amry (@LibyaLiberty) responded to the news by coining the hashtag #SaudiMovieTitles.
— Hend Amry (@LibyaLiberty) December 11, 2017
Quickly the hashtag began trending with some very amusing Saudi twists on popular movie titles
50 first medjool dates #SaudiMovieTitles
— Z³Δ¹Δ³M (@Zaam313) December 11, 2017
When Harry Met Sally's Wali #SaudiMovieTitles
— Nader (@BonsaiSky) December 11, 2017
The Fasting, and the Furious#SaudiMovieTitles
— Ibrahim Jinad Ahmed (@GenieOfAwesome) December 11, 2017
Harry Potter and the prisoner of Ritz-Carlton #SaudiMovieTitles
— kriszta satori (@fulelo) December 11, 2017
Star Wars: The Last Jeddah #SaudiMovieTitles
— Aisha S Gani (@aishagani) December 11, 2017
— Muddassir Nazir (@muddassir_nazir) December 11, 2017
Giving the green light for entertainment in the country is a way to boost domestic spending on entertainment as the Kingdom reels from the drop in oil prices. By doing so, Saudis will be less likely to go to neighbouring tourist hubs like Bahrain and the UAE to spend billions annually on cinemas and amusement parks.