6 Apr – Saudi Arabia will finally open a public cinema this month following the end of the country's 35-year cinema ban.
America's largest movie theater chain, AMC Theatres, has announced in a statement that it will be operating the country's first cinema this 18 April in Riyadh.
The decision to lift the cinema ban last December is part of the ambitious Saudi Vision 2030 led by Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, intended to create an economic and social reform to modernise the country and lessen its dependency on oil for revenue.
AMC Theatres' first Saudi Arabian cinema will be located somewhere in King Abdullah Financial District, in a building that was originally intended to be a symphony concert hall.
"We think it's going to be the prettiest movie theater in the world," CEO and President of AMC Entertainment Adam Aron said, as quoted by Reuters, explaining that the interior design of the cinema will have a luxurious feel as it will be equipped with more than 500 leather seats, orchestra and balcony levels, and marble bathrooms.
Over the next five years, a total of 30 to 40 cinemas are expected to be opened by AMC in 15 Saudi Arabian cities. By the year 2030, it is estimated that 50 to 100 cinemas will open in 25 cities in the country.
"The granting of the first license marks the opening of very significant opportunities for exhibitors. The Saudi market is very large, with the majority of the population under the age of 30 and eager to watch their favourite films here at home," Saudi's Minister of Culture and Information Dr. Awwad Alawwad said.
As history would have it, Saudi Arabia previously banned all cinemas across the country as a result of the religious conservatives' continuous objections during the 1980s Islamic revival movement.
Receiving the honour of being the first movie to be screened at Saudi Arabia's new cinema this 18 April is "Black Panther", as revealed by Disney's Middle East distribution partner, Italia Film, Variety reports.
The choice of screening "Black Panther" as its first movie is quite the no-brainer considering it already passed the USD1 billion box office mark, and also has a good message of gender equality and cultural and racial diversity, which hopefully could set an example for the future of Saudi Arabia.
"Black Panther" is the first movie to be screened in a permanent theatre in Saudi Arabia but the honour of being the first movie to be screened publicly after the lifting of the ban goes to "The Emoji Movie", which was screened at a state-run cultural center back in January.
(Photo source: AMC | Business Wire)