Saudi Arabia has lifted its ban on cinemas, and the first film screened in 35 years is The Emoji Movie. Despite the general consensus that The Emoji Movie was quite bad, the film centered around the popular smartphone icons is making a lot of people happy in Saudi Arabia as it leads the way for the return of the "movie theater experience" for the country's people.
The ban was originally put in place during the early the 1980s due to pressure from Islamists as the country moved towards a religiously conservative society, discouraging public entertainment and the mixing of men and women in public spaces. When 32-year-old Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman was granted power, many restrictions began to ease up, including the ban on cinemas and the ban of women drivers.
A new report on Reuters confirms that Saudi Arabia began screening feature-length children's film, The Emoji Movie, this past weekend in a makeshift theater after the decision to overturn the ban was announced December 11. The theater is located in the state-run cultural hall in the Red Sea city of Jeddah and is equipped with a red carpet, a projector and a popcorn machine. The first, permanent theaters are expected to open as early as March, but films will still be censored to remain in line with the kingdom’s “moral values.” Here is what Mamdouh Salim, whose Cinema 70 brand organized the week-long screenings, said about taking the first steps toward re-establishing cinema in Saudi Arabia:
“Until now, there is no infrastructure for movie theaters, so we are trying to take advantage of (alternative) venues to approximate the cinematic form. We tried to use these films to be a starting point as the first cinematic screening after the decision on Dec. 11 to permit movie theaters.”
The screening is also having a delightfully positive impact on the community as well. Sultan al-Otaibi brought his wife and daughter to the makeshift theater to watch the popular emoji come to life and discussed how it's more comfortable and fun to watch a movie in a theater compared to at home. Here is what he said:
“It’s more comfortable, more fun to have a change of scenery and an activity on the weekend. It is a step that was very late in coming but thank God it’s happening now.”
It's a wonderful step in the right direction for the country in terms of allowing more freedom in how their people experience entertainment. While The Emoji Movie may not be a masterpiece, it made people happy over the weekend and is currently at the forefront of a major cultural change in the country. Authorities are looking to open 300 cinemas with 2,000 screens by 2030, creating 30,000 permanent jobs and, hopefully, adding more movie screenings in the future better than The Emoji Movie.
Screen Rant will keep you updated on all news about The Emoji Movie.