Marvel’s box-office hit Black Panther is reportedly set to become the first movie shown in Saudi Arabia when a decades-old cinema ban is lifted on April 18.
According to the Hollywood Reporter, the superhero blockbuster – which has already amassed north of $1.2 billion since launching in February – will be given a gala premiere at the first AMC-branded cinema in Riyadh.
It said Black Panther is set to play for five days in Riyadh and will be swiftly followed by Avengers: Infinity War, which is being given a day-and-date release on April 26.
The 620-seater theatre is a converted symphony hall in the King Abdullah Financial District, and is the first of hundreds of cinemas planned to open in the next decade.
International theatre chains have long eyed the kingdom as the Middle East’s last untapped mass market of more than 30 million people, the majority of whom are under 25.
The move to reopen cinemas is part of a modernisation drive by Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, who is seeking to balance unpopular subsidy cuts in an era of low oil prices with more entertainment options – despite opposition from religious hardliners.
In February, Saudi Arabia’s General Entertainment Authority (GEA) announced it will stage more than 5,000 festivals and concerts in 2018, double the number of last year, and pump $64 billion in the sector in the coming decade.
The reform stems partly from an economic motive to boost domestic spending on entertainment as the kingdom reels from an oil slump since 2014.
Saudis currently splurge billions of dollars annually to see films and visit amusement parks in neighbouring tourist hubs like Dubai.
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