First Saudi cinema opens with popcorn and ‘Black Panther’, ending a decades-old ban

Saudi Arabia has launched its first commercial movie theater, ending a nearly 40-year ban on cinemas under a push by the crown prince to modernize the deeply conservative Muslim kingdom.

The Development and Investment Entertainment Company (DIEC), a wholly owned subsidiary of Saudi Arabia’s Public Investment Fund (PIF), will launch the Kingdom’s first public cinema.

REUTERS/Faisal Al Nasser/File Photo

Though it was a private, invitation-only screening on Wednesday evening, for many Saudis it marked one of the clearest moments of change to sweep the country in decades.

Movies in Saudi cinemas will be played only after approval by government censors, and the forthcoming movie premiere was no exception. Scenes of violence were not cut, but a final scene involving a kiss was axed reports Washington Post.

A red carpet invitation-only gala event attracted senior government officials, foreign dignitaries and select industry figures to watch Marvel’s superhero movie “Black Panther” on a 45-foot screen at a converted symphony concert hall in Riyadh.
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 prince, 32, has already eased restrictions in the last two years, including on public concerts, women driving and gender mixing. The kingdom held its first-ever fashion show last week with a women-only audience.

Many Saudis have rejoiced at the end of the cinema ban, sharing praise and pictures of Prince Mohammed on social media.

Some religious conservatives view cinema and acting as inconsistent with Islam.

Sources: Washington Post, Reuters, Saudi Gazette

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