The first commercial cinema in 35 years is opening in the Saudi capital on 18 April, after the conservative kingdom lifted a decades-long ban on screenings in January.
AMC’s first cinema will be housed in a theatre in the King Abdullah Financial District in Riyadh, with the first movie screening of Marvel’s superhero movie “Black Panther,” according to Reuters.
Chinese-owned movie giant AMC Entertainment announced today that they had signed an agreement with the Saudi Ministry of Culture and Information to open around 40 cinemas in 15 cities over the next five years.
The announcement came after the Ministry of Culture and Information. awarded the first licence in decades to the Public Investment Fund (PIF), the investment arm of their sovereign wealth fund.
An earlier deal to start operating cinemas was signed by the American movie theatre chain owned and operated by Wanda Group, and the PIF in November 2017.
The first movies exploded onto screen in the kingdom in January after a decision to lift the ban on Dec. 11.
35 year shutdown on cinema
Movie theatres in Saudi Arabia were shut down after a resurgence of Islamic sentiment in the 1980’s that cracked down on public entertainment and the mixing of sexes.
AMC Theaters said they plan to have between 50 and 100 cinemas in operation in 25 Saudi cities by 2030, to help steer the nation’s economy away from oil revenues:
“The decision is part of Saudi Arabia’s social and economic reform programme under Vision 2030, spearheaded by His Royal Highness the Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, who is on an official visit to the United States,” AMC said on Wednesday.
Saudi Arabia plans to build up revenue streams from the tourism, aviation, entertainment and business sectors as part of reform plans announced a few years ago, after coffers dried up due to dwindling global oil prices.
Saudi Arabia’s population of around 32 million, mostly under the age of 30, are expected to be one of the region’s largest markets for movie goers..
Saudi Arabia has said they hope to open 350 cinemas with more than 2,500 screens by 2030
In February UK cinema operators, Vue said they were opening 30 multiplex cinemas in the kingdom over the next three years.