Published Jan 15, 2018Last month, Saudi Arabia made international headlines for reversing its 35-year cinema ban. Over the weekend, the conservative Islamic nation hosted its first screening since the ban was lifted — and the choice of film was a doozy.
Rather than going classic Hollywood with Casablanca or honouring Saudi Arabia's own rich talent with Wadjda, viewers were instead reintroduced to the world of film with one of the worst reviewed films of all time, The Emoji Movie.
The animated tale of the fantastical world inside cellphones was joined on a double bill with Captain Underpants: The First Epic Movie — clearly opting for family-friendliness over critical acclaim.
Saudi Arabia is still without any operational cinemas, so the screening took place at a state-run cultural hall in Jeddah. In spite of the lifted ban, all films are still screened and censored by the government.
The cinema ban was initially enacted in the 1980s to discourage public interaction between men and women.
According to Reuters, new movie theatres are currently being built in Saudi Arabia, with the first expected to open this spring. There are further plans to build 300 theatres (housing more than 2,000 screens) by 2030.