Black Panther hits Saudi cinema amid price backlash

Black Panther hits Saudi cinema amid price backlash

Black Panther hits Saudi cinema amid price backlash

VOX said in a statement it was investing SR2 billion ($533 million) in Saudi Arabia to open 600 screens in the next five years, starting at Riyadh Park Mall which will host the Kingdom's first IMAX screen. Theatres now under design include Majid Al Futtaim's Mall of Saudi and City Centre Ishbiliyah to open in the "coming years" in Riyadh and the cinema developments will create about 3,000 jobs.

Similar to television programming, movies are likely to face some censorship in the kingdom, where sex, religion and politics are widely seen as taboo subjects. Many Saudi clerics view Western movies and even Arabic films made in Egypt and Lebanon as sinful.

Government censors will review movies before they're shown at Saudi theaters.

Authorities planned an invitation-only screening of the movie in a concert hall converted into a cinema complex in the capital, Riyadh.

"Saudis now are going to be able to go to a lovely theater and watch movies the way they're supposed to be watched: on a big screen", he told Reuters ahead of the screening.

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 past year.

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More cinema locations will be announced "in the coming weeks", MAF added.

Majid Al Futtaim's announcement comes a day after the first movie screening in the kingdom, which showed Walt Disney's global blockbuster Black Panther, a film about a young king coming to power in the fictional land of Wakanda.

The invitation-only gala event comes after the conservative kingdom lifted the ban on cinemas past year as part of a far-reaching liberalisation drive, with U.S. giant AMC Entertainment granted the first licence to operate movie theatres.

The social reforms undertaken by the 32-year-old heir to the throne are part of his so-called Vision 2030, a blueprint for Saudi Arabia that aims to boost local spending and create jobs amid sustained lower oil prices. Saudi expects to have 350 theatres by 2030 as it focuses on building its entertainment industry, which is projected to contribute about $24bn to the economy and add more than 30,000 jobs. The kingdom says there will be 300 cinemas with around 2,000 screens built by 2030. Though the premiere featured men and women sitting together, it is unclear whether future screenings will segregate the audience by gender.

The Saudi Ministry of Culture and Information revealed earlier this month that it will open around 40 movie theatres across the kingdom in the next five years.

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

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