The opening date is set for Saudi Arabia’s first public cinema in 35 years. Following a license agreement with AMC Entertainment Holdings— an American movie theater chain owned and operated by Wanda Group— The Saudi Ministry of Culture and Information has announced that it plans to open up to 40 movie theaters across 15 Saudi cities over the next five years, with the first opening its doors in the capital city of Riyadh on April 18.“AMC plans to open the kingdom’s first cinema theatre in Riyadh on April 18,” the information ministry’s Centre for International Communication said in a statement.
The cinema will be situated in the King Abdullah financial district, a new development project overseen by Danish architectural firm Henning Larsen Architects. The main theater will include 500 leather seats, balconies, and marble bathrooms. Meanwhile, three more screens will be added by mid-summer.
The Kingdom hasn’t had a public cinema in more than 35 years, save for an IMAX cinema in Khobar, at a science and technology center. During the 1970s, cinemas were commonplace in the Kingdom, before they were shut down the following decade.
In January, the Kingdom began screening feature-length, animated children’s films in makeshift theaters including The Emoji Movie and Captain Underpants: The First Epic Movie. The screenings served as a significant move for the Gulf country, which also welcomed women into sports stadiums for the first time in history that same month.
The move is the latest from Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, who is on a mission to reform the Kingdom’s economy and make it a more tourist-friendly destination. In September, the 32-year-old crown prince revealed plans to allow Saudi women to get behind the wheel by June 2018.
Unlike most public spaces in the ultra-conservative Kingdom, the movie theaters will not be segregated by gender, and reportedly, the first film set to be screened is Marvel’s superhero movie Black Panther.