S Arabia to open first cinema in 35 years

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The release of "Black Panther" marks a crucial moment in the evolution of Saudi Vision 2030, a project initiated by the Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman after the release of "Black Panther" as an initiative to modernize and liberalize the country by the year 2030.

Of the 49 countries designated "Not Free" by Freedom House in 2018, Saudi Arabia ranked among the dozen worst, just above Syria and North Korea.

The Saudi Arabian Ministry of Culture predicts that the country will have 350 cinemas by 2030, according to CNN.

Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates have pumped billions of dollars into fighting Houthi rebels in Yemen, but the Gulf States' three-year campaign risks being derailed after their local allies turned on each other in February. Tickets go on sale Thursday.

The crown prince, 32, has already eased many restrictions in the last two years, including on public concerts, women driving and gender mixing. The kingdom held its first-ever fashion show last week with a women-only audience.

This is kind of a big deal because movie theaters have been shut down in the country since the early 1980s. The kingdom says there will be 300 cinemas with around 2,000 screens built by 2030.

The initial screening will be limited to special guests, government officials and executives, but the movie be available to the general public on May 1.

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The wide-ranging social reform program, among other things, includes enhanced support for sports and entertainment as well as new opportunities for women.

Authorities are planning an invitation-only screening of the movie in a concert hall that's been converted into a cinema complex in the capital, Riyadh.

"They look like cleaners!" a tweet said. Some also view cinema and acting, as a form of dissembling, as inconsistent with Islam.

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

"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.

"There is worldwide interest in the growth of Saudi Arabia's cultural sector both from a social perspective but also as a significant investment opportunity".

"For those that would like to come and enjoy watching the movie at the movie theatre, they are more than welcome", he said.