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First movie theatre in Saudi Arabia in 35 years to open on April 18

‘Black Panther’ is scheduled to be the first movie that will be screened.

Saudi Arabia’s first cinema in over 35 years will open in the capital Riyadh on April 18, Reuters reported. According to Saudi state media, the kingdom’s main sovereign wealth fund, Public Investment Fund, has signed a deal with AMC Entertainment Holdings to operate cinemas in Saudi Arabia . Officials announced on Wednseday that at least 40 theatres will be opened in the kingdom over the next five years.

These theatres will reportedly not be gender-segregated, unlike most other public places in the Muslim kingdom. Marvel’s superhero film Black Panther is scheduled to be the first movie to be screened at the theatre, Reuters said.

Although Saudi Arabia had some theatres in the 1970s, they were closed down by Islamist clerics in the early ’80s. The ban was lifted in 2017 as part of the economic and social reforms pushed by Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman.

“The restoration of cinemas will...help boost the local economy by increasing household spending on entertainment while supporting job creation in the Kingdom,” Culture and Information Minister Awwad Alawwad said in a statement. According to the Reuters report, Saudi Arabia aims to set up 350 cinemas with over 2,500 screens by 2030, hoping to attract $1 billion in annual ticket sales.

The first theatre will have 500 leather seats, orchestra and balcony levels and marble bathrooms. “We think it’s going to be the prettiest movie theater in the world,” AMC Chief Executive Adam Aron said in an interview.

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