An April 18 invitation-only screening of box office blockbuster film “Black Panther” will end the 35-year cinematic block in the conservative Saudi Arabian Kingdom.
The opulent decor of the Riyadh-located theater includes 620 leather seats, orchestra and balcony levels and marble bathrooms. An additional 500 screens is expected to be added by summer. The two-year-old building, in which women and men will be allowed to sit together, was initially meant to be a symphony concert hall.
Saudi censor officials are currently working on a draft for the classifications and ratings for upcoming films.
“(Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman) knows that Saudi Arabia has a problematic image in the Western world,” a Western diplomat in Riyad told ABC News, on condition of anonymity. “What he wants to do is transform Saudi Arabia and its society in ways that will be very appealing to Westerners (Americans and Europeans).”
Saudi Arabia’s Minister of Culture and Information, Dr. Awwad Alawwad, expressed that the move was “the opening of very significant opportunities for exhibitors.”
The Saudi Government inked the deal with Kansas-based AMC Entertainment to repurpose the space in the King Abdullah Financial District. The company will also be charged with opening multiple theaters across 40 cities in the next five years and 100 cinemas across 25 cities by 2030.
“We expect this to be a very lucrative opportunity for AMC,” AMC Chief Executive Adam Aron said in a conference call. “If we can open up to 100 movie theaters in Saudi Arabia, in a country where there is literally no capacity now, we think the market will have staggering levels of pent-up demand.”
The Middle Eastern Kingdom has been making progressive moves to have a more inclusive society by allowing women to drive, attend soccer matches, attend concerts and now go to the movies.
Italia Film‚ Disney's Middle East distribution partner‚ confirmed the pending release of Marvel's “Black Panther” in the country. “Black Panther” is the third-largest domestic money-maker in U.S. box office history.