The decades old cinema ban in Saudi Arabia ended yesterday with an historic screening of Marvel movie Black Panther in a brand new cinema facility in the capital Riyadh.
It was the first commercial movie to be officially screened in 35 years, since the country’s ultra-conservative regime began closing cinemas in the 80s.
“The return of cinema to Saudi Arabia marks an important moment in the Kingdom’s modern-day history and cultural life, as well as in the development of the Kingdom’s entertainment industry,” said Awwad Alawwad, the Saudi minister of culture and information.
“Cinema has always played an important role in bringing cultures together, and Saudi Arabia is ready to play its part.”
The screening also appeared to be non-segregated, with women and men mixed together, a practice which has previously been prohibited in public places by the Saudi authorities.
It was a watershed moment for a potentially huge market for movies in the country.
70 percent of the country’s 32 million population is under 30, which, it’s thought, could translate into a box office eventually worth over $1 billion.
The cinema in Riyadh is the first of a huge roll-out, with US operator AMC planning to open as many as 100 cinemas, and as many as 350 to open by 2030.
AMC’s CEO Adam Aron told The Hollywood Reporter: “At AMC, we have around 1,000 theaters and 11,000 screens across the globe — but none of them have caught the world’s imagination like this one.
“When I talked to people around the world in recent weeks, it was clear that this is a historic event.”