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TV and Movies

Black Panther will defeat Saudi Arabia's 35-year cinema ban

Saudi Arabia will roll out the red carpet for superhero blockbuster Black Panther as the first permanent movie theaters open after a decades-long ban.

Saudi Arabia will soon welcome Black Panther.

Matt Kennedy/Marvel Studios

Once you've had to deal with Killmonger, an epic 35-year ban on theaters in Saudi Arabia doesn't look like too daunting of a challenge. Marvel's superhero hit Black Panther will add to its international trophy case of accomplishments by becoming the first publicly screened film in a real theater since the start of the kingdom's 35-year cinema ban.

Variety reports a luxury AMC-branded theater in Riyadh will host a gala premiere event for the superhero movie on April 18.

Global theater chain AMC announced this week it has received the first cinema license for Saudi Arabia since movie theaters were banned in the 1980s. This isn't just a drop in the bucket, but the beginning of a tidal wave. The kingdom says it expects to have nearly 350 cinemas by 2030. 

The lifting of the ban is part of a social and economic reform program called Vision 2030 ushered in by the Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman. The ban originally came into being during a swing toward religious conservatism.

"The aim of Saudi Vision 2030 is to improve the quality of life for Saudi families by providing an array of entertainment opportunities," said Awwad Alawwad, Saudi Arabia's minister of culture and information. "The restoration of cinemas will also help boost the local economy by increasing household spending on entertainment while supporting job creation in the Kingdom."

Black Panther will be a big step up from a makeshift film screening of universally panned The Emoji Movie that took place in Saudi Arabia earlier this year.