Saudi Arabia publicly screened its first movie in more than 30 years over the weekend, but moviegoers were subjected to one of 2017’s worst films.
In a makeshift tent in Jeddah, organizers screened The Emoji Movie, which received an abysmal 9% rating on Rotten Tomatoes.
While the film may not have been the first choice for moviegoers, the screening itself marks a historical shift in Saudi policy. In the 1980s, the Kingdom implemented a ban on public cinemas. But as part of the reforms announced in Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman’s modernization program called Vision 2030, cinemas will once again be permitted.
The Saudi government plans to begin building hundreds of permanent cinemas, the first of which may open as early as March this year. According to Reuters, 300 cinemas with 2,000 screens are expected by 2030. Beyond offering Saudi citizens and residents the opportunity to watch movies in their hometown rather than traveling abroad, the government hopes the industry will contribute $24 billion to the economy and create 30,000 jobs.
Cinemas will continue to censor films before they are screened to ensure that they align with the country’s laws. It is unclear whether the cinemas will be segregated by sex.