A commercial movie theater opened Wednesday in Saudi Arabia’s capital city of Riyadh ― ending a nearly 40-year ban on public cinemas in the deeply conservative country.
The theater, a converted concert hall, hosted a glitzy, invitation-only screening of the Marvel Studios film “Black Panther” attended by government officials and foreign dignitaries. Members of the general public will be able to purchase tickets on Thursday for Friday showings, according to Reuters.
A handout picture provided by the Saudi Royal Palace on April 18, 2018, shows Saudi Information Minister Awwad Alawwad (C) holding a small bucket of popcorn as he attends a test screening at the AMC cinema in the capital Riyadh, the first test in over three decades. Blockbuster action flick “Black Panther” play at a cinema test screening in Saudi Arabia on April 18, the first in a series of trial runs before movie theatres open to the wider public next month. The conservative kingdom lifted a 35-year ban on cinemas last year as part of a far-reaching liberalisation drive, with US giant AMC Entertainment granted the first licence to operate movie theatres. / AFP PHOTO / Saudi Royal Palace / BANDAR AL-JALOUD / XGTY / RESTRICTED TO EDITORIAL USE – MANDATORY CREDIT “AFP PHOTO / SAUDI ROYAL PALACE / BANDAR AL-JALOUD” – NO MARKETING – NO ADVERTISING CAMPAIGNS – DISTRIBUTED AS A SERVICE TO CLIENTS (Photo credit should read BANDAR AL-JALOUD/AFP/Getty Images)
The U.S.-based AMC Theatres operates the cinema. Earlier this month, the company announced it had signed a deal with the Public Investment Fund, Saudi Arabia’s sovereign wealth fund, to open and operate up to 40 theaters in the country over the next five years.