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Saudi Arabia Opens First Cinema in 35 Years

Riyadh, Saudi Arabia —(Map)

On Wednesday, Saudi Arabia opened its first public movie theater in 35 years. On the first night, the movie Black Panther was only shown to guests who were invited, but it marks a big change for the country.

Poster for the movie Black Panther
On Wednesday, the movie Black Panther was shown in Saudi Arabia’s first public cinema in 35 years.
(Source: Internet Movie Poster Awards.)

Saudi Arabia is a large and rich country in Asia. Oil was found in Saudi Arabia in 1938, and this oil has given the country a lot of money and power. The religion of Saudi Arabia is Islam, and the rules of the religion are very strict there. There are many things that the people of the country are not allowed to do. Since the 1970s, no one has been able to see a movie in a movie theater.

King Salman of Saudi Arabia, 2017
King Salman of Saudi Arabia, 2017
(Source: Robinson Niñal, via Wikimedia Commons.)

Saudi Arabia has a king who decides the laws of the country. In the past, the king worked with the leaders of the Islamic church to decide some of the laws. But now the church leaders do not have as much power as before.

King Salman is the king of Saudi Arabia now. He has chosen his son, Mohammad bin Salman, as the “Crown Prince”. This means that Mohammad bin Salman, who is sometimes called “MBS”, will be the next king. Many people think that MBS is making decisions now, even though he is not king yet.

Mohammad bin Salman, Crown Prince of Saudi Arabia
Mohammad bin Salman, Crown Prince of Saudi Arabia
(Source: White House, via Wikimedia Commons.)

Since MBS was chosen as Crown Prince, many things in Saudi Arabia have started to change. The movie theater is just one example.

Women have always had very strong limits on what they could do in Saudi Arabia. Many people in Saudi Arabia thought that men needed to decide things for women. Now that is changing a little bit. For example, women can now work, study, or see a doctor without first getting a man’s permission. Women are also now allowed to go to sports games and drive cars. Both men and women were invited to the showing of the Black Panther.

Young Saudi Arabian woman in Abha
There are strong limits on what women in Saudi Arabia can do.
(Source: Walter Callens, via Wikimedia Commons.)

Relaxing the rules is only one reason Saudi Arabia is starting to allow movie theaters. Another reason has to do with money. Right now the country gets almost all of its money from oil. Some people are worried that if oil prices go down, the country will not have any way to make money.

Many people in Saudi Arabia travel to other countries and see movies while they are there. They spend millions of dollars every year in other countries. Saudi Arabia is hoping to get some of this money back and create more jobs by opening cinemas in Saudi Arabia. They plan to open 300 movie theaters by 2030.

Riyadh, Saudi Arabia


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