After a 35-year ban on cinemas in the Islamic kingdom of Saudi Arabia, the country screened its first feature-length children's film in a makeshift theater, reports Reuters.
At the moment, the country is sponsoring temporary movie theatres, even setting up a projector, a red carpet, and a popcorn machine in the state-run cultural hall in the Red Sea city of Jeddah.
“Until now, there is no infrastructure for movie theaters, so we are trying to take advantage of (alternative) venues to approximate the cinematic form,” said Mamdouh Salim, whose Cinema 70 brand organized the week-long screenings.
The country's first permanent theaters might open as soon as March. Their return is a part of a cultural reform in the country that has already seen the staging of concerts, comedy shows, and opened the roads back up to female drivers.
Movie theaters were banned in Saudi Arabia in the early 1980s as a part of a push towards conservatism by conservative Muslims that discouraged forms of public entertainment and contact between men and women.
“It’s more comfortable, more fun to have a change of scenery and an activity on the weekend. It is a step that was very late in coming but thank God it’s happening now,” said Sultan al-Otaibi. The 28-year-old father took his wife and daughter to see The Emoji Movie on Sunday.
Soon he might have more opportunities to get out of the house. Regional and international cinema chains are eyeing the Saudi Arabian movie market.