In the age of YouTube, what's the point in Saudi Arabia's cinema ban?

In 2008, a rare screening of the Saudi comedy film "Manahi" in Jeddah raised hopes -- that were eventually dashed -- that a then three-decade ban on cinema in the kingdom could be lifted.

Story highlights

  • Saudi Arabia's "Vision 2030" program promises a wave of cultural reforms in order to diversify the kingdom's oil-dependent economy
  • The establishment of the General Entertainment Authority had sparked hopes cinema would be unbanned in Saudi as part of the reforms
  • But the Grand Mufti Sheikh Abdul Aziz Al Sheikh subsequently ruled out this option, marking cinema as a "red line" issue

Haifaa al-Mansour is a Saudi Arabian film director. Her debut feature "Wadjda" was the first feature film shot in Saudi Arabia, and the first by a female director. It was submitted by Saudi Arabia in the Best Foreign Language Film category at the 86th Academy Awards.

(CNN)This week marked the end of another period of prolonged excitement about the possibility of re-opening cinemas in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, which have been banned since the 1980s.

My hopes in this area have been crushed countless times before. But my optimism had been reignited by the recent establishment of the General Entertainment Authority, as part of Saudi Arabia's "Vision 2030" program, which promises a wave of cultural reforms intended to diversify the kingdom's oil-dependent economy.
    Film director Haifaa al-Mansour.
    As a filmmaker, I bristled with anticipation. I thought of the day in 2012 when the Saudi Arabian Society for Culture and Arts attempted to host a screening of my film "Wadjda" at a small venue in Riyadh to help it qualify for the Academy Awards.