Saudi Arabia gets its first movie screening after 35 long years!

Syria airstrike

"Black Panther", which stars Chadwick Boseman and Marvel's first African-American director, Ryan Coogler, nabbed $25.2 million domestically on Thursday night. Public openings can be expected in May, AMC Entertainment Holdings told Reuters. A Saudi official said that would happen from May 1.

The screening also appeared to be non-segregated, with women and men mixed together, a practice which has previously been prohibited in public places by the Saudi authorities.

While the Ministry of Culture and Information highly praised the historic opening, some religious clerics with conservative leanings consider foreign movies and cinema as a whole inconsistent with Islam.

Movies screened in Saudi cinemas will be subjected to government's approval. "We're opening up and we're catching up with everything that's happening in the world", said Rahaf Alhendi, who attended the showing.

In 2017, the government said it would lift the ban as part of reforms that aim to keep money in the country that Saudis now spend on entertainment in trips to Dubai, Bahrain and elsewhere.

"The economy will benefit greatly as fewer nationals will exit to watch movies and be entertained", he said. Saudi Arabia is the world's top oil exporter.

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It was the first commercial movie to be officially screened in 35 years, since the country's ultra-conservative regime began closing cinemas in the 80s. It's hoping to operate half of all Saudi theaters in the long run in partnership with the Saudi state-owned Development and Investment Entertainment Company. The kingdom says there will be 300 cinemas with around 2,000 screens built by 2030. It said it expects the first venue to open later this year.

Though it was a private, invitation-only screening on Wednesday evening, for many Saudis it marked one of the clearest moments of change to sweep the country in decades. The UAE chains already cater to regional audiences by subtitling movies in Arabic and removing scenes of a sexual nature.

It's a stark reversal for a county where public movie screenings were banned in the 1980's during a wave of ultraconservatism that swept Saudi Arabia.

The Saudi film industry will reportedly grow into a billion dollar industry at the same time creating employment opportunities.

Over the past several years, Saudi Arabia has gradually been loosening restrictions on movie screenings, with local film festivals and screenings in makeshift theaters.

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