Saudi’s first movie theatre opens with Black Panther (but kissing scenes were removed)

Visitors laugh as they attend a cinema theatre at an invitation-only screening, at the King Abdullah Financial District Theater, in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, Wednesday, April 18, 2018. Saudi Arabia held a private screening of the Hollywood blockbuster “Black Panther” to herald the launch of movie theaters in the kingdom. (AP Photo/Amr Nabil)

The first movie theatre in Saudi Arabia has opened with a screening of Hollywood blockbuster Black Panther – but kissing scenes were deleted by censors.

The private screening in Riyadh marks one of the clearest moments of change to sweep the country in decades.

It is seen as part of a new era in which women will soon be allowed to drive and people in the kingdom will be able to go to concerts and fashion shows and tuck into a bucket of popcorn in a cinema.

But films screened in Saudi cinemas will be subject to approval by government censors, and Wednesday night’s premiere was no exception.

The private screening in Riyadh marks one of the clearest moments of change to sweep the country in decades. Pictured: Women laugh at the screening on Wednesday

Films screened in Saudi cinemas will be subject to approval by government censors, and Wednesday night’s premiere was no exception. Pictured: Visitors wait in line for Black Panther

To adhere to the kingdom's norms on gender segregation, certain screenings may be held for families and others for male-only crowds. Pictured: A mixed gathering for Wednesday's showing 

A visitor checks out a Lexus car, similar to a one used in the film Black Panther that is on display outside an invitation-only screening, at the King Abdullah Financial District Theater in RiyadhA visitor checks out a Lexus car, similar to a one used in the film Black Panther that is on display outside an invitation-only screening, at the King Abdullah Financial District Theater in Riyadh
The new movie theater also came equipped with prayer rooms to accommodate the daily Muslim prayer times. Pictured: A man takes a selfie outside the theatre  The new movie theater also came equipped with prayer rooms to accommodate the daily Muslim prayer times. Pictured: A man takes a selfie outside the theatre

Scenes of violence were not cut, but a final scene involving a kiss was axed.

To adhere to the kingdom’s norms on gender segregation, certain screenings may be held for families and others for male-only crowds.

But, generally movie theaters will not be gender segregated with ‘family sections’ for women and related men and separate ‘single sections’ for male-only crowds as is customary at restaurants and cafes.

Saudi Minister of Culture and Information Awwad Alawwad told The Associated Press the government aims to strike a balance between the country’s Islamic mores and people’s movie experiences.

‘We want to ensure the movies are in line with our culture and respect for values. Meanwhile, we want to provide people with a beautiful show and really enjoy watching their own movies,’ he said.

‘It’s a new era, a new age. It’s that simple. Things are changing, progress is happening. We’re opening up and we’re catching up with everything that’s happening in the world,’ said Rahaf Alhendi, who attended the showing.

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