Saudi Arabia opened its first movie theater last week -- ending a nearly 40-year ban on showing films in public. The global blockbuster Black Panther sold out in about a minute.
Welcoming Saudi crowds back to the movies is part of Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman’s plan to reform the ultraconservative kingdom -- and create more revenue sources beyond oil.
And in a country where there aren’t a lot of things for young people to do…bin Salman sees a huge potential upside. One government body calculated that in 2017 alone, Saudis spent $30 billion on entertainment in the Middle East, but outside kingdom. That’s about 5 percent of the country’s Gross Domestic Product.
The plan is to funnel that kind of money back in to the country - and one way would be through entertainment. Over the next 10 years, the kingdom is planning to invest $64 billion in the entertainment industry and open up 300 movie theaters across the country.
VICE News caught a preview with Fahad al-Yahya, a psychiatrist and film critic in Riyadh who’s been waiting for this day for decades.
(Source: VICE News YouTube channel)