Disney and its Middle East distribution partner Italia Film are set to release the record-breaking film in Saudi Arabia on April 18, which will show in a new AMC movie theater in Riyadh, Variety reported.
Saudi Arabia banned movie theaters in the early 1980s, after the country passed extremely conservative religious measures in 1979. A successful reform campaign headed by Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman—who hopes to revamp and modernize Saudi society—resulted in the ban's end last year.
The Black Panther opening will take place in a new, extravagant cinema, which was first supposed to house a symphony concert hall. The building has over 600 leather seats and orchestra and balcony floors.
AMC Entertainment anticipates opening as many as 40 theaters in Saudi Arabia in the next five years and 100 by the year 2030. It’s predicted that because of the country’s moneyed citizenry and fairly young population—70 percent of its 32 million people are under 30-years-old—Saudi Arabia’s cinema industry could, at some point, amass $1 billion in revenues and be a top 10 market for theatrical revenues.
iPic, Empire, Vue, CJ CGV, Cinépolis, and Dubai-based Vox Cinemas and Cinemacity are just a few other companies now building cinemas in the country.
The ban was technically broken with The Emoji Movie in early 2018. However, Black Panther will be the first to show in a real movie theater, whereas The Emoji Movie was played in a makeshift theater using a projector. For now, Saudi Arabia will be screening “feature-length animated children's films.” Screened films will also be censored due to “moral values.”