Saudi Arabia lifts 35-year cinema ban and the first film screened is ridiculous

Hanna Flint
The first Saudi cinema at cultural club in Jeddah (Reuters)

Back in the 1980s, cinemas were banned in Saudi Arabia after growing pressure from conservative Islamists to reduce the mixing of men and women, as well as public entertainment.

Now, 35 years later, the Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman has lifted the ban and allowed the first movie to be screened at a temporary theatre in the Red City of Jeddah, though it’s a rather unfortunate odd choice.

According to Reuters, The Emoji Movie was screened at the makeshift site despite being one of the worst reviewed movie of 2017.

The animated feature starred TJ Miller, Anna Faris, James Corden and Sir Patrick Stewart as various emoji characters was panned by critics and has just a 9% rating on Rotten Tomatoes.

The Emoji Movie was the first film shown after the ban was lifted

However, its reputation as a terrible movie didn’t affect its box office as it managed to make $217 million – that’s more than quadruple its $50 million budget.

The Saudi government are beginning by showing children’s movies at the pop-up theatre but expect to have several permanent cinemas opened by March and around 300 built with 2,000 screens by 2030.

The films will be still be censored to appease conservative factions of the country but the lifting of the ban comes not long after women were given the right to drive and watch football matches in stadiums.

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