The waves of changes are sweeping across the Saudi Kingdom since a while now, the first ever Saudi fashion week kicked off last week and now the first ever cinema in over 35 years for Saudi Arab has been opened officially with a private screening of the blockbuster “Black Panther”. This is the first in a series of trial runs before movie theaters open to the wider public.
The move to reopen cinemas is part of a modernization drive by Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman. Termed as a reformist, Mohammad Bin Salman is seeking to balance unpopular subsidy cuts in an era of low oil prices with more entertainment options in spite of opposition from hardliners.The cinemas in the Kingdom were shut down in 1980’s, declaring those tools of sins and vulgarity by religious hardliners.
It has been an invitation only gala event that comes after the conservative Kingdom lifted the ban on cinemas last year as part of a far reaching liberalization drive being called as Enlightenment of the Kingdom, for which US giant AMC Entertainment has been granted the first license to operate movie theaters.
Anticipation had been building since after the authorities announced that Saudi Arabia’s first cinema in over three decades would open on Wednesday, but it has been dubbed by the officials that the event at Riyadh’s King Abdullah Financial District as a “dry run”.
According to AMC chief executive Adam Aron, ticket sales will commence on Thursday for the first public shows on Friday. But it is also indicated by the authorities that the test screenings could last for days before an online ticketing system is formally launched. It was earlier said by the Officials that movie theaters are expected to open to the public in May.
While addressing the audience of government officials and industry figures as Adam Aron stood before a large screen in a converted concert hall before the screening of Black Panther, he said, ”This is a historic day for AMC. This is a historic day for your country, Welcome to the era when movies can be watched by Saudis not in Bahrain, not in Dubai, not in London… but inside the Kingdom”.
“This is a story about a young (royal) who transforms a nation. That might sound familiar to some of you”, Aron also joked giving hint that young prince could be regarded parallel to the crown prince as Black Panther is a film about a young monarch of a fictional African jungle kingdom.