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Arab News, Tuesday, Apr 17, 2018 | Shaaban 1, 1439

Soft opening for Saudi cinemas, then curtain up in May

Saudi Arabia: A new era of cinema history in Saudi Arabia will be ushered in at a private film screening this week.
The screening, a collaboration between the Saudi Development and Investment Entertainment Company and US theater giant AMC Entertainment, will take place on Wednesday at a newly built cinema complex in Riyadh’s King Abdullah Financial District.
The private screening — one of a series of invitation-only shows — comes as cinemas in the Kingdom prepare to open their doors following the end of a 35-year ban. The move is part of widespread social reforms led by Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman.
Cinemas will open their doors to the public in May, with tickets expected to go on sale online later this month.
Three screens will open in the third quarter of 2018, with 40 or more cinema complexes due to be built in the next five years.
Half a century ago, cinemas were popular in major cities in Saudi Arabia. Oil workers in the 1930s set up large outdoor screens to watch US and European films.
Cinemas quickly spread across the Kingdom, with 30 theaters operating in Jeddah alone. 
But religious changes in the Kingdom in the early 1980s led to a ban, forcing people to install home theaters or travel to neighboring countries to enjoy global films.
Saudis have been watching the rebirth of cinema in the Kingdom with growing excitement.
Jeddah student Amani Al-Ghoraibi told Arab News: “It will be a new experience that everyone is ready to embrace.” 
Teacher Maha Al-Zahrani said: “Cinemas were only banned because of some hard-liners. All citizens want them back.”

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