In the wake of a 35-year-old ban on cinemas in Saudia Arabia being lifted, the reported first film to screen in the conservative Islamic kingdom since its repeal has been revealed – it was “The Emoji Movie”.
Reuters reports that a state-run cultural hall in the Red Sea city of Jeddah was the site for screenings of feature-length animated children’s films this past weekend in a makeshift theater equipped with a projector, a red carpet and a popcorn machine.
Cinemas were banned in the early 1980s under pressure from Islamists as Saudi society turned towards a particularly conservative form of religion. New reforms led by 32-year-old Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman have eased many of those restrictions.
In a nod to conservatives, films will be censored to make sure they remain in line with the kingdom’s ‘moral values’. The first permanent theaters could open as early as March, so for now authorities are sponsoring temporary settings.
Authorities expect to open 300 cinemas with 2,000 screens by 2030. Regional and international cinema chains are also eyeing the Saudi market.