JEDDAH: Saudi Arabia is all set to open first cinema in nearly 40 years on April 18 in the capital Riyadh, state media said on Wednesday.
Saudi Arabia signed an agreement earlier in the day with AMC to open 30 to 40 cinemas in about 15 Saudi cities over the next five years.
AMC Theaters is an American movie theater chain owned and operated by Wanda Group. Founded in 1920, AMC has the largest share of the American theater market ahead of Regal Entertainment Group and Cinemark Theaters.
Saudi had some cinemas in the 1970s but its powerful clerics managed to close them, reflecting rising Islamist influence throughout the Arab region at the time.
Saudi Arabia’s highest-ranking cleric warned in January of the “depravity” of cinemas, saying they would corrupt morals.
But authorities appear to be shrugging off the threat, with some comparing Saudi Arabia’s reform drive to a fast-moving bus — either people get on board or risk being left behind.
Read More: SAUDI ARABIA LIFTS BAN ON PUBLIC CINEMAS
Saudi Arabia in recent months has organised music concerts, a Comic-Con pop culture festival and a mixed-gender national day celebration that saw people dancing in the streets to thumping electronic music for the first time.
Saudi filmmakers have long argued that a ban on cinemas does not make sense in the age of YouTube.
Saudi films have been making waves abroad, using the internet to circumvent distribution channels and sometimes the stern gaze of state censors.
“Now our young men and women will show the world possibilities and stories worth seeing,” Saudi filmmaker Aymen Tarek Jamal said on Twitter.
“Congratulations to the 2030 Generation.”