Author: APWed, 2018-04-18 (All day)ID: 1524054366261992100
RIYADH: Saudi Arabia is to hold a private screening on Wednesday of the Hollywood blockbuster “Black Panther” to herald the launch of movie theaters in the kingdom that are expected to open to the public as early as next month.
Authorities are planning an invitation-only screening of the movie in a concert hall converted into a cinema complex in the capital, Riyadh. The screening will be followed by a rush to build movie theaters in major cities.
The Saudi government has dubbed Wednesdays event as “the showing of the first commercial film in the kingdom after more than 35 years.”
“This is a landmark moment in the transformation of Saudi Arabia into a more vibrant economy and society,” Saudi Minister of Culture and Information Awwad Alawwad said in statement ahead of the screening.
Its a stark reversal for a country where public movie screenings were banned in the 1980s during a wave of conservativism that swept Saudi Arabia then.
The move to open movie theaters in Saudi comes as part of Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Salman efforts to reform various aspect of Saudi Arabias political, economic and social life.
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 countrys majority young population. The social push by Prince Mohammed is part of his so-called Vision 2030, a blueprint for the country that aims to boost local spending and create jobs amid sustained lower oil prices.
The Saudi government projects that the opening of movie theaters will contribute more than 90 billion riyals ($24 billion) to the economy and create more than 30,000 jobs by 2030. The kingdom says there will be 300 cinemas with around 2,000 screens built by 2030.
Over the past several years, Saudi Arabia has gradually been loosening restrictions on movie screenings, with local film festivals and screenings in makeshift theaters. 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.