A historic record-breaking moment came live for Saudi Arabia when it unveiled its first cinema after 35 years with a private blockbuster screening of Black Panther.
After a lifting, a ban on cinemas last year, the Riyadh only invitation-gala event turned out to be the first screening showcasing the movie with US giant AMC being given the license to operate movie theatres.
Adam Aron, AMC Chief Executive on Wednesday said that ticket sales will begin from Thursday while the first public test screening will start from Friday. Senior officials had earlier indicated that theatres will open to the public in May.
This is a historic day for AMC. This is a historic day for your country. Welcome to the era when movies can be watched by Saudis not in Dubai, not in London, not in Bahrain.. but inside the kingdom.
AMC Entertainment which has successfully bagged the license for showcasing movies in Saudi Arabia has entered into a non-binding agreement in December to build and facilitate cinemas in the kingdom.
Saudi state media has said the company expects to open 40 cinemas in 15 cities over the next five years, but AMC will still face stiff competition from other heavyweights, including Dubai-based VOX Cinemas, the leading operator in the Middle East.
Just like television content is regulated in the country, movies will also witness censorship in the kingdom, especially where subjects like sex, religion, politics, and entertainment are considered to be too controversial to be openly talked about.
With Black panther screening, nonetheless, the kingdom is heading towards a more liberal time where we can hope it to shed away with its ultra-conservative ideology and favor more social reforms like it did with its historic decree allowing women to drive from June.