First Saudi Arabian movie theater screens film

Donald Trump

The release of "Black Panther" marks a crucial moment in the evolution of Saudi Vision 2030, a project initiated by the Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman after the release of "Black Panther" as an initiative to modernize and liberalize the country by the year 2030.

A woman eats popcorn during the test screening of Black Panther at the AMC cinema in Riyadh.

The comments were in response to a Wall Street Journal report on Monday that US President Donald Trump's administration was seeking to assemble an Arab force, including troops from Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, to replace a US military contingent in Syria.

But in 2017, the Saudi Ministry of Culture and Information announced that cinemas would be allowed to operate at the beginning of 2018.

The crown prince is behind measures such as lifting a ban on women driving that will go into effect this summer, and bringing back concerts and other forms of entertainment to satiate the desires of the country's majority young population. This month, the kingdom held a fashion week event, with a women-only audience, and there have been mixed-gender concerts.

The Saudi government believes that opening movie theaters across the country could result in $24 billion into the economy by 2030, with the creation of more than 30,000 jobs.

Many Saudis have rejoiced at the end of the cinema ban, sharing praise and pictures of Prince Mohammed on social media.

Public movie screenings were banned in Saudi Arabia during the 1980s in an ultra-conservative movement.

In 2017, the government said it would lift the ban as part of ambitious economic and social reforms that include retaining money that Saudis now spend on entertainment in trips to Dubai, Bahrain and elsewhere.

To serve a population of more than 32 million, most of whom are under the age of 30, the authorities plan to set up around 350 cinemas with over 2,500 screens by 2030, which they hope will attract almost $1 billion in annual ticket sales. Initial screenings are likely to be for families, with occasional ones for bachelors.

Others expressed confusion at what they called the government's about-face on cinemas' permissibility, with one tweeting: "Remember you will stand in front of God. and you will bear the sins of all those who watched the movies".

According to the latest plans, Saudi Arabia will open about 350 cinemas and 2,500 screens by 2030, generating approximately $1billion in box office spend each year and transforming the Kingdom into the 11th largest market in the world.

"There is global interest in the growth of Saudi Arabia's cultural sector both from a social perspective but also as a significant investment opportunity".

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

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