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Celebrations in Saudi as prince lifts cinema ban

But hammered by the plunge in global oil prices that began in 2014, Saudi Arabia's government is trying to diversify its economy by focusing more on technology and entertainment.

The latest social reform by crown prince Mohammed bin Salman led to an outpouring of joy on Twitter, with Saudis posting images of buckets of popcorn and GIFs of people dancing, fainting and crying.

Saudi Arabia's Ministry of Culture and Information announced on December 11 that it would allow cinemas to operate beginning in early 2018, 35 years after Risky Business and Flashdance made a splash in theaters.

Dubai-based conglomerate Majid Al Futtaim, which owns the Vox Cinemas chain, has already said it wants to open the first movie theatre in the kingdom.

The Saudi General Authority for Audiovisual Media, which is headed by Culture and Information Minister Awwad Saleh Alawwad, approved to begin granting licenses to cinemas in the kingdom within a period that does not exceed 90 days.

"Opening cinemas will act as a catalyst for economic growth and diversification". In addition, it is still unclear whether cinemas will largely cater to Hollywood, Bollywood, or Saudi Arabian films, and whether theaters will segregate women and men.

The lifting of the cinema ban is part of the Vision 2030 plan, which officials hope will see Saudi household spending on culture & entertainment rise from 2.9% to 6% by 2030.

"It's spectacular news. We are in a state of shock", Saudi actor and producer Hisham Fageeh told the A.P.

The government said the films would be censored to make sure they remain "in line with values and principles in place and do not contradict Sharia Laws and moral values in the kingdom".

The Saudi government announced on Monday that the first theatres could start showing films as early as March, part of a liberalising reform drive that has opened the door to concerts, comedy shows and women drivers in the past year.

By forming an anti-corruption committee, the Crown Prince ordered the detention of senior princes and businessmen, in what media described as a massive purge.

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