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Saudi Arabia’s theater ban ends after 35 years with first screening today

Saudi Arabia’s theater ban ends after 35 years with first screening today
Photo: AFP

Riyadh: Saudi Arabia witnessed an end of 35 years long theater ban on Wednesday with the Marvel superhero film “Black Panther”. The opening of the first movie theater in the Islamic country was highly anticipated due to religious reasons.

The first film screening took place in capital city Riyadh. According to a report by Efe, Riyadh has a mixed Saudi and foreign audience that is all set to watch Black Panther at the first AMC-branded cinema, having a capacity of 620 seats. It is first of hundreds of cinemas planned to open in the next decade.

The ban was put in place during the Eighties under Islamists who opposed the public mixing of men and women and public entertainment.

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.

Saudi Culture and Information Minister Awwad Alawwad: “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. Movies screened in Saudi cinemas will be subjected to government’s approval. Scenes of violence were not cut, but a final scene involving a kiss was chopped.

“It’s a new era, a new age. It’s that simple. Things are changing, progress is happening. We’re opening up and we’re catching up with everything that’s happening in the world,” said Rahaf Alhendi, who attended the screening. Authorities said the public would be able to purchase tickets online on Thursday for Friday show, reported AP.

With agencies inputs