Black Panther will break Saudi Arabia’s 35-year long cinema ban, becoming the first film publicly shown in theaters in the conservative gulf kingdom since they were shuttered in the 1980s.
The Marvel superhero film will receive a gala opening on April 18 in Saudi Arabia’s brand new AMC theater in Riyadh, the country’s capital, Variety reports.
The opulent cinema house, which boasts 600 leather seats and marble bathrooms, is a showpiece of Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman‘s drive to reinvent and reform the ultra-conservative Muslim country. The 32-year-old prince, who rose to prominence last year after purging dozens of rivals in what was termed an anti-corruption drive, has met with numerous foreign leaders and introduced high-profile liberalizations, including permitting Saudi Arabian women to drive.
Most Saudi cinemas were shuttered during the early 1980s following the country’s adoption of hardline religious legal codes, but some improvised cinema screens persisted. Earlier this year, The Emoji Movie was shown on one such screen, Reuters reported.
AMC Entertainment, which is owned by Chinese conglomerate Dalian Wanda Group, reportedly plans to open an additional 40 cinemas in Saudi Arabia in the next five years, and up to 100 by 2030. The new industry hopes to create some 30,000 jobs in Saudi Arabia, according to Reuters.
Since opening in February, Black Panther has earned over $1.2 billion in global sales, making it the tenth highest-grossing film in history, according to Box Office Mojo. It also became the most-tweeted about film ever, racking up 35 million mentions, the Associated Press reports.