When an entire nation of people haven't seen a film in the cinema for 35 years, just what do you screen? There have been a lot of cinematic greats in those 35 years. The Shawshank Redemption, maybe? The Lord of the Rings? Forrest Gump? Star Wars: The Last Jedi? No, they just won't do. Ah- I know: The Emoji Movie.
Yes, that's right: Saudi Arabia ended their 35-year long ban on cinema screenings by showing The Emoji Movie, an animated film about anthropomorphic emojis that was universally panned, and has a rating of 2.9 on IMDb.
The screening took place in a makeshift tent in the city of Jeddah. Since no cinemas currently exist in Saudi Arabia, the organiser of the screening says, "we are trying to take advantage of venues to approximate the cinematic form," so more screenings will likely take place in pop-up and makeshift cinemas over the next few months. The government is planning to build new permanent cinemas however, estimating that by 2030 there could be around 300.
Saudi Arabia implemented a ban on cinema in the 1980s as the nation accepted a strict and conservative Islam lifestyle. Recently however the government has committed to modernising the country by introducing more entertainment functions — both to satisfy the largely young population of Saudi (over 50% are under the age of 26), and to move the country's economy away from its reliance on oil. Films screened from here on will still be censored to satisfy the more conservative members of Saudi society, however.
But to celebrate this new modernisation by screening The Emoji Film... well. It's better than nothing I suppose (or is it?), but to the people of Saudi Arabia: we're sorry you had to sit through that. It's only going to get better from here, we promise. They'll be hard pushed to find anything worse than The Emoji Film. [Newsweek]