“Black Panther” is set to break Saudi Arabia’s 35-year cinema ban.
Disney and its Middle East distribution partner, Italia Film, will be releasing the Marvel superhero blockbuster April 18 in a new AMC-branded movie theater in Riyadh with a gala premiere, an Italia Film spokesman said.
The “Black Panther” bow will mark the first screening of a film release in the kindgom since movie theaters were banned in the early 1980s, after Saudi Arabia adopted ultraconservative religious standards in 1979. Removal of the ban, announced last December, is part of a drive by Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman to transform Saudi society.
“Black Panther” will inaugurate the new Saudi era in a luxurious cinema in a building originally intended to be a symphony concert hall. The facility, in Riyadh’s King Abdullah Financial District, has more than 600 leather seats, on orchestra and balcony levels, and marble bathrooms.
AMC Entertainment, which is owned by Chinese conglomerate Dalian Wanda, expects to open up to 40 cinemas in Saudi Arabia within five years and up to 100 theaters in Saudi Arabia by the year 2030.
With a population of 32 million, 70% of whom are under the age of 30, and a relatively affluent citizenry, some analysts expect that Saudi Arabia could eventually produce $1 billion in revenues and be among the top 10 markets for theatrical revenues. AMC and the Development and Investment Entertainment Company, which issued the license for AMC to operate, have said their goal is to achieve approximately a 50% market share of the Saudi Arabian movie theater industry.
Other exhibitors building cinemas in the country include iPic, Empire, Vue, CJ CGV, Cinépolis, and Dubai-based Vox Cinemas and Cinemacity.