For the last 35 years, movie theaters have been banned in Saudi Arabia. That changed on Monday when Saudi Arabia announced it would allow cinemas to open as early as March.

It's the latest gesture towards modernization by Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, who is also behind measures to permit women to drive and to bring back concerts.

When Saudi director Haifaa al-Mansour heard the news, she excitedly took to Twitter:

It is a beautiful day in #SaudiArabia! Saudi Arabia says cinemas to get licenses in early 2018 https://t.co/rnecGW3ymH #Saudicinema

— Haifaa Al Mansour (@HaifaaMansour) December 11, 2017

Mansour is the first female director out of Saudi Arabia. Her 2012 film, "Wadjda," about an 11-year-old-girl growing up outside of Riyadh who dreams of owning a bike, was the first movie to be submitted by Saudi Arabia to the Academy Awards.

Mansour says movies were her lifeline growing up in Saudi Arabia. She remembers standing outside a local Blockbuster Video as a kid, waiting for the man who worked there to fetch her movie selections for her. Women weren't allowed inside the store, she said, because it was considered "a corrupt place."

"I come from a small town in Saudi Arabia. And the boredom ... I can't even explain it!" she says. "So it was wonderful to see a lot of movies as a kid, and be part of the big world ...  to experience big emotions like falling in love or people fighting for their countries."

Movies, she says, are so important in a place like Saudi Arabia. "People need to embrace the love of life and just have fun. And in that way, we can fight extremist ideology."

From PRI's The World ©2017 PRI