Saudi Arabia ends cinema ban screenings start Friday

Saudi Arabia ends cinema ban screenings start Friday

America's biggest movie theater company, AMC, played the Hollywood blockbuster on Wednesday at its new single-screen cinema in the financial district of the capital Riyadh.

The ban was put in place during the Eighties under Islamists who opposed the public mixing of men and women and public entertainment.

While the Ministry of Culture and Information highly praised the historic opening, some religious clerics with conservative leanings consider foreign movies and cinema as a whole inconsistent with Islam.

This weekend, Saudi cinemagoers will be able to watch Black Panther - although some reports indicate the movie was censored to cut the scene of a kiss at the end - and the ministry has already announced that "a number of upcoming blockbusters that are now in the process of being classified".

"Awwad said the government wanted to create investment opportunities". The goal over the coming years is to reduce Saudi's economic reliance on oil.

"We're going to show typical Hollywood blockbusters that are very popular in the United States and Europe and elsewhere in the world", AMC CEO Adam Aron told CNN.

John Sfakianakis, director of economic research at the Gulf Research Center in Riyadh, said that opening new entertainment venues will encourage Saudis to spend more money at home rather than on vacations in nearby countries.

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It's seen as part of a new era in which women will soon be allowed to drive and people in the kingdom will be able to go to concerts and fashion shows, and tuck into a bucket of popcorn in a cinema.

The Saudi government has dubbed Wednesday's event as "the showing of the first commercial film in the kingdom after more than 35 years".

The theater located in Riyadh is the first of 100 multiplexes AMC plans to open within the next few years.

Though it was a private, invitation-only screening on Wednesday evening, for many Saudis it marked one of the clearest moments of change to sweep the country in decades.

According to the latest plans, Saudi Arabia will open about 350 cinemas and 2,500 screens by 2030. The UAE chains already cater to regional audiences by subtitling movies in Arabic and removing scenes of a sexual nature.

Confetti rained down through the multi-storey atrium as he and the Saudi information minister announced the official launch of the theatre and proceeded into the 450-seat movie hall.

Saudi Arabia will also for the first time, debut a pavilion at the upcoming Cannes Film Festival.

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