“Black Panther” is notching another milestone as the first public release in Saudi Arabia following a 35-year cinema ban. Disney and its Middle East distribution partner, Italia Film, are set to open the Ryan Coogler-directed tentpole on April 18 at the country’s new AMC-branded movie theater in Riyadh (via Variety). The AMC is the first theater to open in Saudi Arabia following the ban’s lift in December 2017.
Saudi Arabia’s ultraconservative government banned cinemas in the early 1980s because it felt such locations encouraged public mixing between men and women. Over the last several years, however, filmmaking and film interest in Saudi Arabia has boomed. As previously reported, the government will still censor all films to make sure they agree with the country’s cultural standards. The current plan is to have over 300 cinemas open with over 2,00 screens by 2030.
“Black Panther” has dominated the international box office since opening around the world in February. The tentpole is the fourth highest grossing movie in U.S. history as of April 5, ranking behind “Star Wars: The Force Awkens,” “Avatar,” and “Titanic.” “Black Panther” has pulled in over $652 million in the U.S. and more than $1.28 billion worldwide.
While “Black Panther” will be the country’s first public release, the film that made history as the first screening was none other than “The Emoji Movie.” The Sony-backed animated movie screened as a double feature with “Captain Underpants: The First Epic Movie” on January 13 at a state-run cultural hall in Jeddah.