For the first time in 35 years, you can go and see a movie in Saudi Arabia

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After 35 years, Saudi Arabia is lifting its ban on movie theaters. One of those things we take for granted (and we often just stick to Netflix anyway), the reopening of movie theaters is part of a governmental effort to update the Saudi image after decades of strict rules and regulations.

The cinemas have been closed since 1982, which means the original Blade Runner was in theaters the last time Saudis could go and catch a flick.

Awwad bin Saleh Alawwad, the Saudi Minister of Culture and Information, made a statement earlier today (12/11) on the subject, stating that, “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.”

To those following along, the reopening of cinemas and the push for arts and progress in general is not all that surprising: Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman Al-Saud has outlined his Vision 2030 program to continue to redefine the Saudi reputation. Earlier this year women were granted the right to drive for the first time ever.

Which is a big deal.

And plans for a $500 billion city of the future, where clean energy, free thought, and innovation will reign supreme, were released by the Saudi government earlier this year as well.

Check it out here:

But that plan is still in the works, and only a part of an uncertain future. At present, Saudis can celebrate going to the movies, many for the first time, and all the joy that will bring to families and friends.

And celebrate women driving to go and see them. Baby steps. Progress rarely comes as quickly as it should.

The first theaters are expected to open by March. Officials estimate that 300 cinemas with more than 2,000 screens will be operating in the country by 2030, just in time for the futuristic NEOM to change the world as well.

Perhaps the future is a bright one after all.