Saudi Arabia, UAE Close Cinemas Amid Ongoing Coronavirus Crisis

Riyadh Skyline, Saudi Arabia - H 2018 - Getty
Credit: Getty

Only Bahrain, Oman and Egypt still have cinemas open in the Middle East.

Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates have joined the growing list of countries to close cinemas, as many parts of the world continue to shut down amid the ongoing coronavirus crisis. 

The announcements were made Sunday, with the UAE, the Gulf region's biggest market in terms of box office, and Saudi Arabia, which only opened its first public cinema in 2018 following a near 40-year ban, closing all theaters for a minimum of two weeks. The move makes Bahrain, Oman and Egypt the only Middle East countries to still have cinemas open for business. 

"In line with ongoing efforts to safeguard public health, The Department of Economic Development directs all cinemas, theme parks, amusement games & electronic game centres, bodybuilding & fitness gyms & spring camps licensed in Dubai to halt all their activities & services until end of March 2020," authorities in the UAE emirate of Dubai tweeted.

In Saudi Arabia, which has reported 118 coronavirus cases, authorities also shut down malls except for food stores and pharmacies, and banned serving food in restaurants and cafes. 

The weekend saw governments across much of the world put into place severe restrictions in efforts to contain the virus. Spain followed Italy's lead in enforcing a total lockdown, while France ordered the closure of all nonessential public buildings, including restaurants, cafes, clubs and cinemas. On Saturday, U.S. President Donald Trump extended a ban he had announced earlier last week suspending travel to the U.S. from 28 European countries, adding the U.K. and Ireland to the list.