Saudi Arabia Lifting The Ban On Movie Theaters Is Bigger Than You Think
For nearly 40 years there were no movie theaters in Saudi Arabia. Over the next four years, 40 theaters will be built. In 12 years over 100. A former concert hall with marble bathrooms and over 600 leather seats will be the first theater, which will almost immediately begin to show the Marvel superhero movie, Black Panther.
So, why does this matter?
Saudi Arabia before 1979 was considered one of the cultural capitals of the region. Reactions to the Iranian revolution and a takeover of the Great Mosque of Mecca caused the spread of highly conservative Islamic values into cultural institutions. The attack on cinema was that it induced lazinesses and sin. That same sentiment exists today where religious leaders have called the opening of theaters to be a “depravity.”
The decision is part of “Vision 2030,” which is the plan for a lifting of religious rulings and liberalization to attract investors and move the country away from complete dependence on oil for national revenue. Saudi Arabia’s de facto leader, Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, has been the leading architect behind Vision 2030, which has included increasing rights for women, easing of punishments for violating religious rulings, and an attempt to quietly dissociate with a more conservative view of Islam.
The implementation of movie theaters is unbelievably radical. They will be the only public place where men and women will be allowed to sit together.
Experts have stated that the law is partially designed to appeal to the under 30 population. Over seventy percent of Saudi Arabia is under thirty.
Black Panther, a movie about an isolationist African country with advanced technology, ruled by a royal family is probably seen by the House of Saud as the perfect fit for the first movie to display.