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Saudi Arabia Opens First Movie Theater with 'Black Panther' Screening

23 April 2018

Saudi state media has said the company expects to open 40 cinemas in 15 cities over the next five years, but AMC will still face stiff competition from other heavyweights, including Dubai-based VOX Cinemas, the leading operator in the Middle East.

Saudi Arabia opened its first cinema since the 1980s with a showing of "Black Panther" Wednesday as part of a series of reforms in favor of moderate Islam.

In February, Saudi Arabia's General Entertainment Authority announced it will stage more than 5,000 festivals and concerts in 2018, double the number of previous year, and pump $64 billion in the sector in the coming decade.

AMC brought its own screens to the country with the first theater that launched this week, and public viewings expected to start on Friday.

The government hopes that opening movie theaters will act as a catalyst for economic growth and diversification, creating new employment opportunities and providing Saudis with a greater range of entertainment options.

The VOX Cinemas' Riyadh Park experience will include four screens located within the most significant Magic Planet Family Entertainment Centre in the region.

"Saudis now are going to be able to go to a lovely theatre and watch movies the way they're supposed to be watched: on a big screen", Adam Aron, chief executive of AMC Entertainment Holdings, told the news agency.

The ban was lifted by Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, whose efforts to reform and modernize the conservative country included lifting the ban on women drivers in September of a year ago.

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He said plans were afoot for three more screens in the coming months.

RIYADH, Saudi Arabia The lights dimmed and the crowd of men and women erupted into applause and hoots Wednesday evening as Hollywood's blockbuster "Black Panther" premiered in Saudi Arabia's first movie theater.

"For those that would like to come and enjoy watching the movie at the movie theater, they are more than welcome", he said.

The opening marks another milestone for reforms spearheaded by Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman to open the country culturally and diversify the economy of the world's top oil exporter.

"The restoration of cinemas will ... help boost the local economy by increasing household spending on entertainment while supporting job creation in the Kingdom", Culture and Information Minister Awwad Alawwad said in a statement.

"Welcome to the era when movies can be watched by Saudis not in Bahrain, not in Dubai, not in London. but inside the kingdom", he said before the screening of "Black Panther".

Saudi movie fans already got a taste of Tinseltown in January, when a film festival in Jeddah screened "The Emoji Movie" and "Captain Underpants".

Saudi Arabia Opens First Movie Theater with 'Black Panther' Screening