Cinemas opened in Saudi Arabia for the first time in 35 years on Wednesday, with the screening of the Hollywood film Black Panther for senior government officials, foreign dignitaries and select industry figures in Riyadh, AP reported. The kingdom lifted its ban on movie theatres last December.
Movies in Saudi Arabia will be subject to cuts by government censors. On Wednesday, authorities retained scenes of violence in Black Panther, but cut a final scene involving a kiss.
However, an invitee said the day heralded a new era in Saudi Arabia. “It’s a new era, a new age. It’s that simple,” Rahaf Alhendi told AP. “Things are changing, progress is happening. We’re opening up and we’re catching up with everything that’s happening in the world.”
The movie will be screened to the public from Friday, tickets for which would go on sale on Thursday.
United States-based AMC Entertainment, a global movie theatre operator, signed a deal with Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman two weeks ago to run the first cinema in the kingdom. The company then transformed a concert hall in Riyadh into a movie theatre.
“This is a historic day for your country,” AMC Entertainment CEO Adam Aron told the audience on Wednesday. “It’s been about 37 years since you’ve been able to watch movies the way movies are meant to be watched in a theatre, together on a big screen.”
The Saudi Arabian government believes the opening of movie theatres will contribute more than 90 billion riyals (Rs 1.57 lakh crore) in revenue and create over 30,000 jobs by 2030. The kingdom plans to build around 200 cinemas with 3,000 screens by that year.