An Arabic hashtag called "Allowing Cinema In Saudi Arabia" started trending worldwide Sunday on Twitter, after Saudi Arabian authorities cleared the air regarding false reports claiming cinemas would be allowed in the country.
Several media outlets had reported earlier that Saudi Arabian officials had signed agreements with investors to launch the kingdom's first cinema in Riyadh. In response, the authorities released a statement denying the validity of the reports.
The General Authority of Audiovisual Media said in the statement that "regarding what has been circulated in different media outlets today about launching cinema in Saudi Arabia, the authority would like to make it clear that there is no truth to the news story and that there is no official quality to the organizations and people mentioned in the news story," according to Hashtag KSA.
The hashtag sparked a renewed debate about the country's three decade-long ban on cinema that included a variety of different reactions to the situation.
Many users expressed their disappointment after having had hopes that a cinema would be opened in the kingdom and called for the ban to be lifted, while others were glad it wasn't true.
However, the hashtag was also flooded with sarcastic humor that poked fun at what the hypothetical situation would be like if the ban was actually lifted, with some users pointing out that even if cinemas were allowed there probably wouldn't be women allowed on the screens so their images would have to be censored.
Cinemas have been banned in Saudi Arabia since the 1980s; there were movie theaters in the country before that time that screened Arab films and some international movies but they were closed down.
The 2012 film "Wadjda" was the first official Saudi Arabian film, it had an all-Saudi cast and was shot entirely in the kingdom, but it wasn't screened there because of the ban. The film was the first-ever Saudi Arabian entry to the Best Foreign Language Film category at the 86th Academy Awards, but it wasn't nominated.