RIYAD – Saudi Arabia held a private screening of the Hollywood movie “Black Panther” on Wednesday to mark the upcoming opening of cinemas in the kingdom. Tickets will go on sale Thursday for a public screening on Friday.
The authorities had organized an invitation screening in a concert hall in the capital, converted into a cinema. Women and men were able to attend the screening together, which should be followed by a rush to build cinemas in major cities across the country.
The Saudi government said Wednesday’s event was “the first showing of a commercial film in the kingdom in more than 35 years”.
The audience clearly seemed to enjoy the moment, and many enjoyed the popcorn. The audience applauded and expressed their joy as the screening began.
Minister of Culture and Information Awwad Alawwad said in a statement that this was a landmark moment in Saudi Arabia’s transformation to a more dynamic economy and society.
This is a complete turnaround for a country where public screenings were banned in the 1980s as a result of an ultraconservative wave. Many religious leaders in the kingdom considered Western films, as well as Arab films shot in Egypt and Lebanon, to be blasphemous.
After decades of rigorism, Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman has recently undertaken several major social reforms with the support of his father, King Salman.
The Saudi government expects the opening of cinemas will generate economic spin-offs of 90 billion Saudi Riyals (34 billion CAN $) and create more than 30,000 jobs by 2030. It is expected that some 300 cinemas for a total of about 2000 screens by 2030.