Riyadh: Saudi Arabia is to hold a private screening on Wednesday of the Hollywood blockbuster Black Panther to herald the launch of movie theaters in the kingdom that are expected to open to the public as early as next month.
Authorities are planning an invitation-only screening of the movie in a concert hall converted into a cinema complex in the capital, Riyadh. The screening will be followed by a rush to build movie theaters in major cities.The Saudi government has dubbed Wednesday’s event as “the showing of the first commercial film in the kingdom after more than 35 years.”
“This is a landmark moment in the transformation of Saudi Arabia into a more vibrant economy and society,” Saudi Minister of Culture and Information Awwad Alawwad said in statement ahead of the screening.
It’s a stark reversal for a county where public movie screenings were banned in the 1980’s during a wave of ultraconservatism that swept Saudi Arabia. Many of Saudi clerics view Western movies and even Arabic films made in Egypt and Lebanon as sinful.
Danya Alhamrani is a film-maker for Eggdancer Productions and she has more on the story from Jeddah.
Despite decades of ultraconservative dogma, Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman has sought to ram through a number of major social reforms with support from his father, King Salman.
The crown prince is behind measures such as lifting a ban on women driving that will go into effect this summer, and bringing back concerts and other forms of entertainment to satiate the desires of the country’s majority young population. The social push by the 32-year-old heir to the throne is part of his so-called Vision 2030, a blueprint for the country that aims to boost local spending and create jobs amid sustained lower oil prices.
The Saudi government projects that the opening of movie theatres will contribute more than $24 billion to the economy.