LOS ANGELES (CBSLA) — A Hollywood visit by the Saudi crown prince has reportedly led to a deal that will allow movie exhibitor AMC to open theaters in Saudi Arabia.
AMC is set to open up to 40 cinemas in roughly 15 Saudi Arabian cities over the next five years, with the first venue scheduled to debut in Riyadh on April 18, according to Variety.
By 2030, up to 100 cinemas could be in place across 25 cities in the Islamic kingdom.
The move comes hours after Saudi Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman with entertainment industry heavyweights at the Four Seasons in Beverly Hills, where he booked the entire hotel for his stay.
Saudi Arabia has long been a culturally conservative nation: a royal decree made in 2017 finally gave women the right to drive automobiles.
But after the monarchy recently decided to lift its 35-year ban on cinemas, some analysts say could become a billion-dollar industry and propel Saudi Arabia to a top 10 international film market.
In a conference call cited by Variety, AMC chief Adam Aron said while the cinemas are not expected to be segregated by gender, the chain may “offer special showtimes for just women or men.”
“Saudi society is changing,” Aron was quoted as saying. “I’m sure this will be a trial and error situation as the ministry takes the temperature of the populous. Currently it is our view the theaters will not be segregated.”