Saudi Arabia set for first public film screening at cinema

Awwad Al-Awwad, opened the first cinema screening in Saudi Arabia on Thursday evening, operated by the world's largest cinema operator and developer AMC Theatres, after almost 35 years of complete cinema shutdown in the kingdom.

Authorities said the public would be able to purchase tickets online on Thursday for showings starting Friday.

An AMC official said the movie chain could possibly release the much-anticipated thriller "Avengers: Infinity War" at the cinema next week, around the same time as its global release.

There are two other halls that will open in the next three weeks, with an extra 450 seats, AMC screens will accommodate about 1,000 people.

MAF Ventures, which has a total of 300 screens in the region with only 150 are in its malls, is talking to developers in Saudi Arabia to find locations for its cinemas, Ahmed Ismail, its chief executive told The National on April 15. It was earlier said by the Officials that movie theaters are expected to open to the public in May.

This announcement will open the way for VOX Cinemas to bring its cinema entertainment portfolio to Saudi, it added.

"This is a historic day for your country", Aron told viewers at the screening of "Black Panther".

Saudi's crown prince has been spearheading the liberalisation of the country's strict, and longstanding social restrictions. It said it expects the first venue to open later this year.

About 350 cinemas, with more than 2,500 displays in the Kingdom, are planned by 2030. In recent years, the country has also hosted local film festivals and screenings in makeshift theaters. "Welcome to the era when movies can be watched by Saudis not in Bahrain, not in Dubai, not in London. but inside the kingdom". In an opinion piece for The Washington Post, he wrote that a friend once broke his leg at a screening in Medina when he jumped off a wall to escape the religious police and avoid arrest.

Access to streaming services, such as Netflix, and satellite TV steadily eroded attempts by the government to censor what the Saudi public could view. Though the premiere featured men and women sitting together, it is unclear whether future screenings will segregate the audience by gender.

Saudi Arabia's Ministry of Culture has declared that the movies shown in the country "will be subject to censorship according to media policy standards of the Kingdom, stressing that will be in line with values and principles in place and do not contradict with Sharia Laws and moral values in the Kingdom". "Meanwhile, we want to provide people with a handsome show and really enjoy watching their own movies", Awwad Alawwad, Saudi's minister of culture and information, told Associated Press films during the Riyadh premiere.

"For those that would like to come and enjoy watching the movie at the movie theater, they are more than welcome", he said.

  • Jon Douglas