tiptrot.com July 17, 2018

Saudi Arabia's first cinema in 35 years opens with Black Panther screening

23 April 2018, 05:40 | Deanna Wagner

Middle East Theater Chain Vox to Become Second to Open in Saudi Arabia

Saudi Arabia's first cinema in over 35 years opens with Black Panther

Ada Aron, the AMC chief executive said on Wednesday that for now, the multiplex theatre at Riyadh's King Abdullah Financial District will operate one screen with a seating capacity of 250.

The Vox Cinemas Riyadh Park - housed inside the Riyadh Park Mall - will consist of four screens, including the country's first Imax screen, and will reportedly show family-friendly fare including animation and educational films.

Late a year ago, Saudi Arabia announced it would allow cinemas to open in the country as part of its economic overhaul, dubbed Vision 2030.

The showing of "Black Panther" was invitation only and subject to government censorship. Saudi Arabia's powerful conservative clerics claimed Western movies did not meet their hard-line interpretations of Islam. The crown prince is behind measures such as lifting a ban on women driving that will go into effect this summer, and bringing back concerts and other forms of entertainment to satiate the desires of the country's majority young population.

Most of the planned reforms also have a practical goal like revamping Saudi Arabia's economy in the face of lower oil prices. For the most part, though, Saudis who wanted to watch a film in a movie theater would have to drive to nearby Bahrain or the United Arab Emirates for weekend trips to the cinema.

USA -based AMC, one of the world's biggest movie theater operators, only two weeks earlier signed a deal with Prince Mohammed to operate the first cinema in the kingdom.

Saudi Arabia has ended a 35-year ban on movie theaters with a screening of "Black Panther".

"This is the first time that we really see something that's really being materialized", he said. Though the premiere featured men and women sitting together, it is unclear whether future screenings will segregate the audience by gender.

The social reforms undertaken by the 32-year-old heir to the throne are part of his so-called Vision 2030, a blueprint for Saudi Arabia that aims to boost local spending and create jobs amid sustained lower oil prices.

With the dashing return of cinema to Saudi Arabia, AMC Cinemas has announced a partnership with Noon.com to sell tickets online for initial screenings of "Black Panther", the Marvel Studios production of the immensely popular comic book that marks the return theaters to the Kingdom on April 20. The growth of the exhibition sector is expected to create around 30,000 permanent jobs and some 130,000 temporary positions, by 2030. The kingdom says there will be 300 cinemas with around 2,000 screens built by 2030.

Saudi movie fans already got a taste of Tinseltown in January, when a film festival in Jeddah screened "The Emoji Movie" and "Captain Underpants".

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