Speed Reads

Cinema in Saudi Arabia

After a 35-year ban, movie theaters are officially coming back to Saudi Arabia

As part of Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman's plan to create a more open Saudi Arabia, AMC Theatres — the world's largest movie exhibitor — has won the first commercial cinema license in the country since a ban was placed on the industry 35 years ago. The government had previously signaled that it was laying the groundwork for lifting the ban in December.

In conjunction with the Public Investment Fund of Saudi Arabia, AMC plans to open the country's first post-ban movie theater on April 18 in Riyadh's King Abdullah Financial District, per The Hollywood Reporter. Some issues, like whether or not men and women can sit together and which movies will be permitted, are still being worked out, though AMC CEO Adam Aron said he does not expect the theaters will be segregated.

The announcement comes during the prince's visit to Los Angeles this week, where he has been meeting with top Hollywood executives in order to begin the process of building a relationship between Saudi Arabia and the film industry.

AMC has set its sights on opening up to 40 theaters in multiple cities throughout Saudi Arabia within the next five years, and 60 more venues by 2030. Other theater chains such as iPic Entertainment and Imax Corp. — which currently operates the only (non-commercial) cinema screen in the kingdom, at the Sultan Abdulaziz Science and Technology Center in Khobar — are also looking to take advantage of the opening.

The decision is the latest in a line of societal changes in Saudi Arabia, including the decisions to lift bans on women driving cars and attending soccer games. Read more at The Hollywood Reporter.