Saudi Arabia opens 1st movie theater in 35 years

Saudi Arabia opens 1st movie theater in 35 years
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Saudi women arrive to watch Saudi short movies during the "Short Film Competition 2" festival on October 20, 2017, at King Fahad Culture Center in Riyadh. The rare movie night this week in Riyadh was a precursor to what is expected to be a formal lifting of the kingdom's ban on cinemas, long vilified as vulgar and sinful by religious hardliners. / AFP PHOTO / FAYEZ NURELDINE

Riyadh: The opening of the first movie theater in Saudi Arabia on Wednesday has been highly anticipated across the country, after over 35 years of prohibition for religious reasons.

The first film screening is to be in the capital Riyadh, where a mixed Saudi and foreign audience is set to watch the Marvel superhero film “Black Panther”, Efe reported.

Saudi Culture and Information Minister Awwad Alawwad is planning to attend the event, along with celebrities and guest filmmakers.

Local media have reported an increase in film interest, as reflected in the number of new followers for the Saudi General Authority for Audiovisual Media’s Twitter account, which has reached over 105,000.

As part of Saudi Arabia’s social and economic reform programme under Vision 2030, spearheaded by Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, the Ministry of Culture and Information announced a landmark decision in December to allow commercial cinemas to operate in the Kingdom from early 2018, Xinhua reported.

Alawwad said: “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.”

“Today, we mark a major step in fulfilling our commitment to improving the lives of all in the Kingdom, a key pillar of Vision 2030,” he added.

According to the latest plans, Saudi Arabia will open about 350 cinemas and 2,500 screens by 2030.

—IANS