Black Panther looks set to break Saudi Arabia’s 35-year cinema ban, becoming the kingdom’s first film shown in a public space since the Eighties.
Saudi Arabia is in the midst of change. In recent months, the conservative kingdom in the Middle East has allowed women to drive for the first time, appointed a woman as the CEO of a major commercial bank and eased up on allowing women to enter football stadiums to spectate.
Now, not only will the kingdom’s citizens be able to go to the cinema for the first time since the Eighties, but they’ve picked a humdinger of a first movie to screen, too.
Of course, it’s Black Panther, the tenth highest-grossing film in history.
The superhero film, which has already raked in $1.2 billion (£855 million) worldwide, will be shown as part of a grand opening on 18 April in the kingdom’s new AMC cinema in Riyadh.
The country hasn’t witnessed cinemas in use for 35 years, after a ban was decided in 1979 by clerics, reflecting the Gulf’s religious legal codes at the time.
And it will be the first of many as 40 cinemas will open in Saudi cities over the next five years. With the aim to set up around 350 altogether with over 2,500 screens by 2030.
The move comes as part of Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman’s Vision 2030 programme which aims to broaden Saudi’s economy and lessen its dependency on oil.
“We think it’s going to be the prettiest movie theatre in the world,” says AMC Chief Executive Adam Aron. “It’s a dramatic building.”
Saudi – which employs a state policy of gender segregation between unrelated men and women – regularly scores near the bottom on global gender equality rankings. However, the new AMC cinema will not segregate its viewers by gender, unlike other public spaces in the country.
Images: Marvel Studios 2018 / Unsplash