It was 35 years ago in 1983 when Saudi Arabia banned public cinemas, which means the last American films Saudis may have been able to see from the previous year’s releases could have been E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial, Rocky III, or Annie.
But the formal ban will end soon as Saudi Arabia’s Ministry of Culture and Information announced it has partnered with American theater chain AMC to open up new cinemas across the country. The plan would be to open 40 movie theaters in the next five years and as many as 350 theaters by 2030.
What may be symbolic is that Disney/Marvel’s blockbuster Black Panther is likely to be among the first films seen the new movie theater locations, starting with the capital and most populous city of Riyadh on April 18.
The cultural move is among many that have been encompassed by Saudi Vision 2030, a plan to reduce the country’s dependency on oil and diversity the economy through opening more public sector industries such as tourism, entertainment and education.
“The aim of Saudi Vision 2030 is to improve the quality of life for Saudi families by providing an array of entertainment opportunities,” the Saudi minister of culture and information, Awwad Alawwad, said in a statement released by AMC.
“The restoration of cinemas will also help boost the local economy by increasing household spending on entertainment while supporting job creation in the Kingdom,” added Alawwad.