Popcorn at the ready: Saudi Arabia lifts 35-year cinema ban

Old fashioned cinema seats inside and theater. Source: Shutterstock

WHILE cinema has existed as a form of entertainment in many places around the world since 1906 when black and white, soundless moving images adorned the big screen, the pleasure of watching the latest releases in Saudi Arabi has been banned for over 30 years.

The awesomeness of cinema is often taken for granted in the Western world as pirate copies and “Netflix originals” have taken over and marginally degraded the cinema experience to an infrequent form of nostalgia for many.

However, this is certainly not the case in Saudi Arabia as the nation gets ready to open its first cinema in over 30 years.

On Apr 18, American movie giant AMC Entertainment will be opening a cinema in the capital city of Riyadh.

The Saudi state media has said that residents should expect it to be the first of many and hope to open at least 40 theatres in the next five years.

The Riyadh movie theatre has more than 600 seats and orchestra and balcony levels.

The new cinemas will also provide 30,000 permanent jobs and 130,000 temporary positions.

Italia Film, Disney’s Middle East distribution partner announced that the newest Marvel film, Blank Panther, will be shown in the cinema.

The original cinema ban was issued back in the 80s by Islamists who were against the public mixing of males and females and public entertainment.

As recently as October 2017, the grand mufti, Saudi Arabia’s highest religious authority declined proposals to open cinemas.

However, the decision to open these entertainment complexes is just one on a list of reforms made by Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman.

The Prince has also passed legislation to allow women to drive and attend sports matches.

Additionally, in a bid to make the oil-rich nation less dependent on its current abundance of this natural resource, the Prince also introduced tourist visas with relaxed restriction to develop the country’s tourism industry.