Saudi Cinema Screens Reopen On 18 April ‘With Black Panther’

 Saudi Cinema Screens Reopen On 18 April ‘With Black Panther’

Saudi Arabia’s first cinema in more than 35 years will open on 18 April, showing the action movie Black Panther.

It is part of a deal done with the world’s biggest cinema chain, AMC, to open up to 40 cinemas in some 15 Saudi cities over the next five years.

The past year has seen the start of a huge drive to bring entertainment to Saudi Arabia as part of Vision 2030.

That is the ambitious plan for economic and social reform by the Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman.

The conservative Muslim kingdom had cinemas in the 1970s, but they were closed at the behest of hardline Islamic clerics.

As recently as January, Grand Mufti Sheikh Abdul Aziz Al al-Sheikh reportedly warned of the “depravity” of cinemas, saying they would corrupt morals if allowed.

Saudi Arabia’s royal family and religious establishment adhere to an austere form of Sunni Islam known as Wahhabism, and Islamic codes of behaviour and dress are strictly enforced.

Saudis are enthusiastic consumers of Western media and culture, but have been confined to watching privately, on their phones and via satellite television at home.

Both Saudi authorities and cinema operators believe there is a huge untapped market that could generate up to $1bn (£710m) in annual ticket sales through some 350 theatres by 2030.

The first screen to open will be in the King Abdullah Financial District of the capital, and a source told Reuters news agency the first film shown would be Marvel superhero blockbuster Black Panther.

The source also said that cinemas would not be segregated by gender, as is normally required in public venues. It is unclear, however, what kind of movies will be permitted – and it is likely that some will be censored.

Tolani Giwa

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