Disney and its Middle East distribution partner, Italia Film, will be releasing Marvel superhero blockbuster “Black Panther” on April 18 in a new AMC-branded movie theater in Riyadh with a gala premiere, ending Saudi Arabia's 35-year cinema ban.
The release will mark the first screening of a film release in the kindgom since movie theatres 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.
According to Variety, “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 expects to open up to 40 cinemas in Saudi Arabia within five years and up to 100 theatres 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.