Saudi Arabia opens first permanent cinema in 35 years

Saudia Arabia will today host a private screening of Marvel superhero film ‘Black Panther’ in its capital city of Riyadh, according to ABC News.

This venue of the screening is set to become the country’s first permanent cinema since a decision was made to lift a 35-year-old ban in December 2017. The country had begun screening animated children’s movies in a makeshift theater in January of this year(New York Times).

This venture is part of a new deal the country has embarked on with U.S cinema giant AMC,  to open up to 40 cinemas in some 15 Saudi cities over the next five years. Both Saudi authorities and cinema operators believe there is a large untapped market that could provide up to $1bn (£710m) in annual ticket sales, through some 350 theatres, by 2030.

It has also been reported that these new cinemas will not be segregated by gender, as, up until now, has been required in Saudi public venues.

But it remains unclear what kind of films may be permitted to be shown in the future, or what kind of censorship may take place. The childrens’ movies shown in January had reportedly been edited to fit the country’s “moral values”.

The decision is part of a series of reforms announced under crown prince Prince Mohammad bin Salman. Saudi women were able to attend soccer in stadiums for the first time on January 12, and will be able to drive from June 2018 (New York Times). Contribute to our separate story on this subject.

Saudi Arabia used to have cinemas in the 1970s, but they were closed at the request of influential religious figures.

Last year, prominent Islamic Mufti Abdulaziz al Sheik cautioned against the “depravity” of cinemas and concerts, and said that opening cinemas would represent a “call for mixing between the sexes”.(The National)

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