Saudi cinema launch ends decades-old ban, public screenings start Friday

Lester Mason
April 20, 2018

The ban was lifted by Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, whose efforts to reform and modernize the conservative country included lifting the ban on women drivers in September of a year ago.

VOX Cinemas is investing an additional SAR 2bn to open 600 screens in the next five years in Saudi Arabia.

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. This Wednesday screening of Black Panther (an interesting choice, considering the film's narrative parallels to their Prince's recent history in his kingdom) was historic for the country: being the first screening of a movie in a cinema in 35 years, because of laws that were on the books in the conservative Muslim country.

Saudi Arabia is ending a almost 40-year ban on commercial cinemas, and the first theatre - operated by AMC Entertainment Holdings - was launched this week, with public viewings expected to start on Friday.

The VOX Cinemas Riyadh Park experience will include four screens located within the largest Magic Planet Family Entertainment Centre in the region. This commitment is expected to create more than 114,000 direct and indirect job opportunities.

The cinema expansion will bring Majid Al Futtaim's total investment in the country to 16bn riyals.

Rather than attempt to build a theater from scratch, AMC converted a vacant concert hall in a partially built financial district of the capital that was under the control of its partner, Saudi Arabia's main sovereign wealth fund, the Public Investment Fund. Leather reclining seats were dispatched by air freight from the United States.

Through its partnership with 20th Century Fox, the distribution arm of Majid Al Futtaim Cinemas will also be exclusively distributing Fox content to all cinemas across Saudi Arabia. In 2018, the company is planning to release The Darkest Minds, The Predator and James Cameron's production Alita Battle Angel, it said. Countless great moments ahead.

Majid Al Futtaim has had a significant presence in Saudi Arabia for more than 14 years through Carrefour, operating 16 hypermarkets and supermarkets with more than 7,000 employees.

Other reports by Iphone Fresh

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