Saudi Arabia’s movie-watchers are in for a treat later this month, 35 years after cinemas were banned in the country. On April 18, AMC will open its first cinema in the country. And the first film to be shown? According to multiple reports, “Black Panther.”
If the Saudi government wanted to send a message with its film choice, the blockbuster superhero flick is a good one: The movie shows a fictional African kingdom which uses a mysterious natural resource to rapidly develop, with a young and charismatic prince becoming king and ultimately deciding to use its technological advances and wealth for the good of the greater world.
Saudi Arabia’s cinemas are reopening under the guidance of Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, 32. Vast oil reserves have made the country fantastically wealthy, and Salman is pushing hard to use these riches to reform the country politically and economically before they run out, as part of a plan dubbed “Vision 2030.”
Saudi Arabia is pursuing grand domestic projects like Neom — a planned high-tech supercity with a $500 billion price tag — while crafting an ambitious foreign policy that aims to check the influence of Iran, Saudi Arabia’s regional rival.
“Black Panther” isn’t quite the first film to be shown in Saudi Arabia since the ban on cinemas was lifted. In January, a number of films aimed at children were shown in a makeshift theater in Jiddah at an event sponsored by the Saudi government.
Under a joint plan by AMC and the Public Investment Fund of Saudi Arabia, the cinema chain expects to open 30 to 40 theaters in approximately 15 cities over the next five years, ultimately opening as many as 100 theaters by 2030.