'Black Panther' heralds launch of Saudi Arabian movie theaters

Abayas have evolved over the years

Abayas have evolved over the years

Saudi Arabia launched its first commercial movie theater on Wednesday, ending a almost 40-year ban on cinemas under a push by the crown prince to modernize the deeply conservative Muslim kingdom.

A man takes a picture of the AMC logo during a cinema test screening in Riyadh.

The Saudi official said there would also be no segregation when theaters open to the public - moviegoers would be able to choose between mixed, male-only and female-only screenings. The kingdom held its first-ever fashion show last week with a women-only audience.

A source told Reuters last month that theaters would not be segregated by gender like most other public places in Saudi Arabia. "Most of the time people react because they don't know who you are or who they are".

Online movie ticket sales for members of the public are expected to be available in the coming days.

In 2017, the government said it would lift the ban as part of ambitious economic and social reforms that include retaining money that Saudis now spend on entertainment in trips to Dubai, Bahrain and elsewhere.

Donald Trump criticizes Jerry Brown on troops at border
The officials spoke to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to discuss the matter. Trump had initially thanked Brown for agreeing to send the National Guard.

"For those that would like to come and enjoy watching the movie at the movie theater, they are more than welcome", he said. It's hoping to operate half of all Saudi theaters in the long run in partnership with the Saudi state-owned Development and Investment Entertainment Company.

The government also announced plans to allow women to drive this year.

Vox Cinemas and Novo Cinemas, both based in the United Arab Emirates, are interested in expanding across the border into the new, potentially much bigger, Saudi market.

In this April 17, 2018 photo, Dr. Awwad Alawwad, the Saudi Minister of Culture and Information, tours the King Abdullah Financial District Theater to follow up on preparations, a day ahead of the first public screening of a commercial film in more than 35 years in Saudi Arabia, in Riyadh.

It's not clear whether "Black Panther" will undergo a similar censorship for Wednesday's screening, which will be attended by diplomats, industry insiders, the press and the CEO of AMC Entertainment, Adam Aron.

Saudi movie fans already got a taste of Tinseltown in January, when a film festival in Jeddah screened "The Emoji Movie" and "Captain Underpants".

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