As a result of the Islamist revival of the late ‘70s and the seizure of the Grand Mosque in Mecca in 1979, the Saudi Arabian government shut down virtually all of the country’s public movie theaters and instituted a ban on cinema that’s lasted for the past 35 years. Next month, though, that’s all going to change.
This April, Marvel’s Black Panther will break Saudi Arabia’s cinema ban with a premiere and gala event at a new AMC theater located in Riyadh, the first of many locations AMC plans to open in the country in the coming years. Though there have been talks about opening theaters in Saudi Arabia for a while, the most recent development comes as a result of Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman’s concerted push to increase access to entertainment for citizens. The report says Disney and distribution partner Italia Film will present the film “in a luxurious cinema in a building originally intended to be a symphony concert hall.”
It’s rather fitting that Black Panther’s the film to break the cinema ban when you consider that many studios see Saudi Arabia as an untapped market with huge economic potential because of the country’s relatively young and affluent population. The global movie marketplace is only getting bigger going forward and it’s going to be fascinating to see just what impact it’s going to have on the industry.