The Hush Post: Against ‘Islamic beliefs’, the opening of the first commercial movie theatre in the deeply conservative kingdom of Saudi Arabia after over 35 years of prohibition has been grabbing attention. Although attendance to private screenings this month in Riyadh is by invitation only, it will be open to the public in May, according to operator AMC Entertainment Holdings.
The first film to be screened in the capital Riyadh is Hollywood film “Black Panther”. Saudi Culture and Information Minister Awwad Alawwad is likely to attend the event, along with celebrities and guest filmmakers. The Ministry of Culture and Information had announced in December to allow commercial cinemas to operate in Saudi Arabia from early 2018.
Despite the cinema ban, Hollywood films and television series are widely watched at home in the Islamic state and private film screenings are allowed. The step is part of the era of social and economic reforms being unleashed slowly by crown prince Mohammed Bin Salman,32, to relinquish the country’s dependence on oil and to open up the closed society to modern-day influences. The crown prince has already eased many restrictions in the last two years, including on public concerts, women driving and gender mixing.
The kingdom had banned cinemas in the early 1980s under pressure from Islamists. Saudi Arabia will open about 350 cinemas and 2,500 screens by 2030.