Saudi Arabia's first cinema in over 35 years opens with Black Panther


UAE-based Majid Al Futtaim group has announced to open 600 new Vox multiplex screens in Saudi Arabia over the next five years.

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.

Reopening movie theatres is part of Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman's ambitious reform drive as he seeks to balance unpopular subsidy cuts in an era of low oil prices with more entertainment options - despite the risk of riling hardliners.

Saudi Arabia was introduced to cinemas half a century ago through foreign companies and embassies, which came to work in Saudi Arabia at the time.

The extent of censorship was not clear but a Saudi official said the same versions of films shown in Dubai or Kuwait will be suitable for Saudi Arabia.

The region's most innovative and now largest cinema operator, Vox Cinema, announced that it has applied and obtained a license to run theaters in Saudi Arabia, announcing that it will be opening its first screen in the Saudi capital Riyadh in the next few days.

Saudi Arabia has just opened up their first movie theater in 35 years - and their first showing was available to both men and women. In addition to the IMAX and KIDS concepts at the Riyadh Park location, VOX Cinemas complexes across the region also include THEATRE by Rhodes and GOLD by Rhodes. In 2018, the company is planning to release The Darkest Minds, The Predator and James Cameron's production Alita Battle Angel, it said.

The new cinema developments will create some 3,000 direct jobs, providing a boost to the diversification agenda for the Saudi economy.

Majid Al Futtaim CEO Alain Bejjani thanked the Ministry of Culture and Information and the General Commission for Audio-visual Media for placing their confidence in Majid Al Futtaim's contribution to Saudi's new chapter.

Bejjani added: "Majid Al Futtaim is proud to be one of the largest private sector investors in the kingdom and Vision 2030, with an investment commitment now increasing to $4 billion".

AMC, which is owned by Chinese property and entertainment conglomerate Dalian Wanda Group, has plans to open at least 30 cinemas across the kingdom in the next five years. Countless great moments ahead.

A source told Reuters last month that theaters would not be segregated by gender like most other public places in Saudi Arabia.

Saudi Arabia also had an economic motivation for the 2017 overturn of the longstanding ban on women drivers.

The gala opening was limited to about 500 invited guests, executives and officials, but public screenings of the movie will begin soon, AMC said.