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AMC scores Saudi Arabia's first cinema license

America's biggest movie theater company is bringing the silver screen to Saudi Arabia.AMC said Wednesday it ha...

Posted: Apr 5, 2018 1:09 PM
Updated: Apr 5, 2018 1:09 PM

America's biggest movie theater company is bringing the silver screen to Saudi Arabia.

AMC said Wednesday it has scored the first cinema operating license granted by the Saudi Ministry of Culture following the country's move in December to end a 35-year ban on movie theaters.

The US chain signed an agreement with a Saudi government subsidiary to jointly open at least 30 cinemas across the kingdom in the next five years, according to a company statement.

The first AMC movie theater will open in Riyadh, the Saudi capital, on April 18.

Related: Saudi Arabia ends 35-year ban on movie theaters

AMC, which is owned by Chinese property and entertainment conglomerate Dalian Wanda Group, is likely to end up competing with regional cinema operators for Saudi theater goers.

Vox Cinemas and Novo Cinemas, both based in the United Arab Emirates, are interested in expanding across the border into the new, potentially much bigger, Saudi market. The UAE chains already cater to the region by subtitling movies in Arabic and removing scenes of a sexual nature.

Saudi Arabia's cinema industry is expected to grow to around $1 billion over the coming years, AMC said.

Related: 6 ways life in Saudi Arabia will change in 2018

Saudi Arabia is undergoing an economic overhaul under Vision 2030 -- a blueprint for diversifying the economy over the next decade and reducing the country's reliance on oil.

The government is investing billions in the entertainment sector, hoping it will act as a catalyst for economic growth, create new employment and investment opportunities, and provide Saudis with a wider range of entertainment options.

The Saudi government wants its citizens to spend more on entertainment and tourism inside the country, Ahmed Al Khateeb, chairman of Saudi Arabia's General Entertainment Authority, said in an interview with CNNMoney's Richard Quest on Wednesday.

Related: 'Emoji Movie' and popcorn: The cinema experience returns to Saudi Arabia

Saudis have in the past traveled abroad to get their entertainment fix because of all the restrictions in the deeply conservative country. Al Khateeb said Saudis spend roughly $20 billion a year overseas on entertainment and tourism.

The country is gradually relaxing social and cultural restrictions as it tries to return to what Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman has called "a more moderate Islam."

The majority of Saudis are supportive of social reforms, Al Khateeb said, noting that some 70% of the kingdom's population is under 30 years old.

Besides cinema openings, Cirque du Soleil will come to Riyadh this year and the city of Jeddah hosted the kingdom's first-ever Comi-Con in February, he said.

WWE is also holding a Royal Rumble wrestling event in Jeddah this month, featuring wrestler and actor John Cena.

Saudi movie fans already got a taste of Tinseltown in January, when a film festival in Jeddah screened "The Emoji Movie" and "Captain Underpants."

-- Zahraa Alkhalisi contributed to this story.

Mississippi Coronavirus Cases

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Confirmed Cases: 91935

Reported Deaths: 2780
CountyConfirmedDeaths
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Harrison368771
Jackson334367
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Jones236078
Forrest231069
Washington215671
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Webster32813
Jefferson Davis32211
Carroll30812
Amite30710
Wilkinson30117
Kemper28515
Sharkey25812
Jefferson2359
Benton2151
Franklin1863
Choctaw1775
Issaquena1033
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Alabama Coronavirus Cases

Confirmed Cases: 128097

Reported Deaths: 2264
CountyConfirmedDeaths
Jefferson18648332
Mobile12949288
Montgomery8560170
Madison736573
Tuscaloosa7015112
Lee558259
Shelby550149
Baldwin502148
Marshall376342
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Dallas172526
Russell16912
Autauga162424
Lauderdale159231
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Jackson146610
Chilton143325
Dale128042
Covington127027
Coffee12388
Pike11329
Tallapoosa112483
Chambers110642
Clarke104417
Marion91428
Butler90238
Barbour8097
Marengo69319
Winston68512
Lowndes64327
Pickens62214
Bibb6179
Hale60828
Bullock58514
Randolph58512
Lawrence57620
Monroe5708
Washington54513
Geneva5404
Perry5356
Wilcox52911
Cherokee52816
Clay5187
Conecuh51611
Crenshaw51531
Macon46619
Henry4524
Sumter41719
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Choctaw34212
Lamar3302
Cleburne3116
Greene29915
Coosa1573
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