Saudi Arabia's main sovereign wealth fund said it planned to enter the cinema business with major US -based movie exhibition company AMC Entertainment Holdings, as the conservative kingdom lifts a 35-year-old ban on cinemas.
The minister of Culture and Information, Awwad Alawwad, told the AFP, the decision to license cinemas was "central to the government's programme to encourage an open and rich domestic culture for Saudis".
That's intensified under the Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, widely known as MBS, an ambitious 32-year-old slated to become the country's next king.
Saudi Arabia's bold reforms have met opposition from hardliners, who believe movie theaters threaten the country's religious and cultural identity.
"Noon brings a dynamic, locally-driven and customer-oriented digital marketplace to the Kingdom serving the community and offering a new retail and much improved experience", said Alabbar. Dubai-based mall operator Majid Al Futtaim, which owns VOX Cinemas, said it wanted to open the first movie theatre there.
But despite the ban, the kingdom has been able to host at least 4 film festivals in the recent past, the country has also seen an emergence of local independent movies, one of which even made its way to Oscars in 2017.
The announcement is in line with Vision 2030; the social and economic reform program in the Kingdom and follows the announcement that women will be allowed to drive come June 2018 as the ban on female applications for driving licences was lifted. This would be the first time people living in Saudi Arabia can legally Watch Movies in Cinemas.
The Ministry added: "The movies' content will be subject to censorship according to the Kingdom's media policy standards".