Saudi Arabia will open its first cinema in over 35 years on April 18 as part of a deal with the world's biggest cinema chain AMC to open up to 40 theatres in some 15 Saudi cities over the next five years.
The Saudi Ministry of Culture and Information granted on Wednesday the first licence to America's AMC to operate a theatre, the Saudi Gazette reported on Thursday. The first AMC movie theatre will open in Riyadh.
The past year witnessed the start of a huge drive to bring entertainment to Saudi Arabia as part of Vision 2030, an ambitious plan for economic and social reform by the Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman.
Saudi Minister of Culture and Information Awwad Al-Awwad said: "The opening of cinema theatres will help support the local economy keeping the spending by families within Saudi Arabia in addition to contributing to creating new job opportunities in the Kingdom."
It is expected that the Kingdom, whose population exceeds 32 million, the majority of whom are under 30 years of age, would form the largest market for cinema industry in the region.
According to Saudi Gazette, about 350 movie theatres with over 2,500 screens will be opened by 2030.
Saudi Arabia had cinemas in the 1970s, before they were closed. Saudis have in the past travelled abroad to get their entertainment fix because of restrictions in the deeply conservative country. Ahmed Al Khateeb, chairman of Saudi Arabia's General Entertainment Authority, said Saudis spend roughly $20 billion a year overseas on entertainment and tourism.
The Saudi government wants its citizens to spend more on entertainment and tourism inside the country, said Al Khateeb.
Besides cinema openings, Cirque du Soleil will come to Riyadh this year. The city of Jeddah hosted the kingdom's first-ever Comi-Con in February, he said.