First Saudi Cinema In 35 Years To Open By Showing 'Black Panther'

Saudi Arabia is to open its first cinema in over 35 years - and the first film that Saudis will be able to see will be Black Panther.

Cinema chain AMC have signed a deal with the country that will see them open 40 cinemas in 15 cities over the course of the next 5 years.

The country's government is deeply conservative and takes a lot of advice from religious leaders that follow a particular branch of Sunni Islam called Wahhabism.

This means that there are very strict rules on dress and conduct - and that, until now, Western movies were off the table.

Credit: Marvel
Credit: Marvel

One religious leader, Grand Mufti Abdulaziz Al Sheikh said recently that: "We know that singing concerts and cinemas are a depravity."

He and many other religious leaders feared that cinemas "might show movies that are libertine, lewd, immoral and atheist, because they rely on films imported to change our culture."

He added: "At the beginning they would assign areas for women, but then both men and women will end up in one area. This corrupts morals and destroys values."

Despite these fears, many Saudi people do like Western films, TV, and music, but have to watch them in the privacy of their own homes, on foreign TV and on the Internet.

Now, both AMC - the world's largest cinema company - and the Saudi authorities see a large market for investment and money-making opportunities from allowing the film theatres to reopen.

Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman. Credit: PA
Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman. Credit: PA

The first new cinema since the 1970s will open on 18 April in the King Abdullah Financial District of the capital, Riyadh, with Black Panther the first movie to be screened.

A source that spoke to news agency Reuters also said that the theatres would be free from the gender segregation that most public spaces in the country are subject to.

However, this is not certain and it is also likely that the films that they will be allowed to show will be closely monitored as well as some films being censored.

This is all part of a project called Vision 2030 that was created by the Crown Prince to bring about economic and social change to the conservative Arab nation.

Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman with Richard Branson promoting Vision 2030. Credit: PA
Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman with Richard Branson promoting Vision 2030. Credit: PA

Prince Mohammed bin Salman wants to roll back some of the restrictions placed upon the people of the country by the religiously conservative establishment.

He hopes that this will help to drive the economy away from their dependence on oil and convince people to spend their wages at home rather than travelling abroad.

Another example of the change in approach from the government has seen women allowed to drive for the first time.

Featured Image Credit: Marvel

Tom Wood

Tom Wood is a freelance journalist and LADbible contributor. He graduated from University of London with a BA in Philosophy before studying for a Masters in Journalism at the University of Salford. He has previously written for the M.E.N Group as well as working for several top professional sports clubs. Contact him on [email protected]

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