Published: Thu, April 19, 2018
Global News | By Stacy Ballard

Saudi Arabia Celebrates Cinema Grand Opening With 'Black Panther'

Saudi Arabia Celebrates Cinema Grand Opening With 'Black Panther'

Attendance to private screenings this month in Riyadh is by invitation only, with a public opening to follow in May, according to operator AMC Entertainment Holdings.

This will allow Saudi Arabia to modernize and capitalize on its wealth through the use of media and cinema.

"The UN Secretary-General met with Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques King Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud and His Royal Highness the Saudi Crown Prince". Saudi Arabia lifted a 35-year-old ban on public movie screenings in December 2017.

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AMC Entertainment, which is the largest theatrical exhibitor in the world with approximately 1,000 theaters and 11,000 screens across the globe, won the first licence to operate movie theaters in the kingdom and runs the Riyadh cinema. The Crown Prince is taking steps to improve the lives of the younger generation in his country, which makes up about 70 percent of the population, and the Vision project is a way to connect the younger generation in Saudi Arabia with young people across the world through shared media.

The powerful prince, 32, has already eased many restrictions in the last two years, including on public concerts, women driving and gender mixing.

Earlier in April, Saudi authorities announced their decision to open the first cinema in over three decades in the country's capital of Riyadh, an initiative that is being put into practice on Wednesday. In 1983, the ban on publicly released cinema arose as a result of stricter laws banning the co-mingling of men and women in public spaces.

Others expressed confusion at what they called the government's about-face on cinemas' permissibility, with one tweeting: "Remember you will stand in front of God ... and you will bear the sins of all those who watched the movies".

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To serve a population of more than 32 million, most of whom are under the age of 30, the authorities plan to set up around 350 cinemas with over 2,500 screens by 2030, which they hope will attract almost $US1 billion ($NZ1.3 billion) in annual ticket sales.

Some religious conservatives view cinema and acting as inconsistent with Islam.

Initial screenings are likely to be for families with some occasional ones for bachelors.

Movies screened in Saudi cinemas will be subject to approval by government censors, as is the case in other Arab countries.

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Awwad said the government wanted to create investment opportunities.

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