Saudi PIF's subsidiary oversees historic launch of first public cinema

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Cinemas were closed on the orders of strict clerics, but they are being reopened under a larger reform plan spearheaded by crown Prince Mohamed Bin Salman which aims to catapult the ultra-conservative kingdom into the 21st century.

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It's not clear whether "Black Panther" will undergo a similar censorship for Wednesday's screening, which will be attended by diplomats, industry insiders, the press and the CEO of AMC Entertainment, Adam Aron.

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The crown prince is behind measures such as lifting a ban on women driving that will go into effect this summer, and bringing back concerts and other forms of entertainment to satiate the desires of the country's majority young population. The kingdom held its first-ever fashion show last week with a women-only audience.

In an official opening ceremony before the movie began, AMC bosses joined Saudi government officials on the stage.

Saudis have nonetheless been avid consumers of Western media and culture.

It's a stark reversal for a county where public movie screenings were banned in the 1980's during a wave of ultraconservatism that swept Saudi Arabia.

In 2017, the government said it would lift the ban in part to retain money that Saudis now spend on entertainment during trips to Dubai, Bahrain and elsewhere.

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To serve a population of more than 32 million, most of whom are under the age of 30, authorities plan to set up around 350 cinemas with over 2,500 screens by 2030, which they hope will attract almost $1 billion in annual ticket sales.

Initial screenings are likely to be for families with some occasional ones for bachelors.

Some religious conservatives view cinema and acting as inconsistent with Islam.

"Saudi policies are failing both domestically and overseas, especially in Lebanon", the Jordanian envoy said, informing his government after meeting his UAE counterpart Hamad bin Saeed al-Shamsi, according to a document released on September 28, 2017. "And for those who don't want to watch movies at all, it's also their personal choice".

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