'Black Panther' Opening: Saudi Arabia Lifting Decades-Long Ban on Movie Theaters

Saul Bowman
April 19, 2018

DIEC and AMC Entertainment commemorated the historic moment with a gala event hosting prominent local and worldwide guests.

A red carpet invitation-only gala event on Wednesday attracted senior government officials, foreign dignitaries and select industry figures to watch Marvel's superhero movie Black Panther on a 13-metre screen at a converted symphony concert hall in Riyadh.

A 35-year ban on cinemas in Saudi Arabia is set to end on Wednesday as the country opens its first movie theatre.

"It will be the first in a series of test screenings, attended by industry specialists, that will be held... to support final preparations for the opening of the cinema to the wider public", the information ministry's Center for International Communication said.

Abu Dhabi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Zayed is working to break up with Saudi Arabia due to disapproval of Saudi policies in the region, according to secret diplomatic documents published by Lebanese newspaper Al Akhbar. "Through clear and transparent regulatory frameworks, we will ensure that both worldwide and Saudi filmmakers have an opportunity to showcase their work across our country". This is expected to create a substantial number of new jobs in the Kingdom, around 30,000 permanent jobs and around 130,000 temporary jobs by 2030.

Adding that the Saudi government had already approved films to follow "Black Panther", including "Rampage" and an approved a cut of "The Avengers". Under the guidelines set-out by GCAM there will be dedicated screenings for all segments of society. Saudi Arabia lifted a 35-year-old ban on public movie screenings in December 2017. In addition, worldwide entertainment companies are entering the market to operate venues and cinemas.

Adam Aron, CEO of AMC Entertainment, said: "At AMC we have around 1,000 theatres and 11,000 screens across the globe - but none of them have caught the world's imagination like this one".

Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates have pumped billions of dollars into fighting Houthi rebels in Yemen, but the Gulf States' three-year campaign risks being derailed after their local allies turned on each other in February.

The cinema will open to the public on Friday. Increasing the freedom of cinema within the country and allowing more Western cinema into Saudi Arabian theaters is a visible change in the everyday lives of the Saudi Arabian people.

The partnership between DIEC and AMC Entertainment advances a key objective of Vision 2030 to grow the entertainment sector in the Kingdom.

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