Black Panther hits Saudi cinema amid price backlash

Black Panther hits Saudi cinema amid price backlash
2 min read
21 April, 2018
Saudis have taken to social media questioning the ticket price as cinema returns to the kingdom for the first time in over 35 years.
Over the next five years, 40 cinemas are expected to be opened [Getty]

US film Black Panther hit the Saudi screens on Friday, the first public movie screening in the kingdom for over 35 years.

The screening comes just two days after the US movie giant AMC unveiled the kingdom's debut theatre, but there's already a backlash against ticket prices.

The 75 Saudi riyals ($20) pricetag was widely criticised on Saudi social media, despite it including the new entertainment tax and value-added tax.

Ada Aron, the AMC chief executive said on Wednesday that for now, the multiplex theatre at Riyadh's King Abdullah Financial District will operate one screen with a seating capacity of 250.

The coming months would see three more screens planned.

The conservative kingdom lifted a 35-year ban on cinemas last year as part of a far-reaching liberalisation drive, with US giant AMC Entertainment granted the first licence to operate movie theatres.

The company expects to open 40 cinemas across 15 Saudi cities over the next five years, Saudi state media said.

International theatre chains have long eyed the kingdom as the Middle East's last untapped mass market of more than 30 million people, the majority of whom are under 25.

Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman is seeking to balance unpopular subsidy cuts in an era of low oil prices with more entertainment options - despite opposition from religious hardliners.

Black Panther was chosen as the first film to be screened in Saudi, which tells the tale of a young monarch of a fictional resource-rich African kingdom. It is seen as having some parallels with the life of the crown prince and Saudi Arabia

In February, Saudi Arabia's General Entertainment Authority announced it will stage more than 5,000 festivals and concerts in 2018, double the number of last year, and pump $64 billion in the sector in the coming decade.

Saudi Arabia is looking to diversify its economy away from hydrocarbons, which currently account for more than 90 per cent of the state budget that employs most Saudi nationals.