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Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 13 December 2018

Black Panther picked to reopen Saudi Arabian cinemas

Marvel super hero will leap onto screens in kingdom with April 18 Riyadh premiere

Chadwick Boseman and Daniel Kaluuya in Black Panther (2018). Courtsey: Disney/Marvel Studios
Chadwick Boseman and Daniel Kaluuya in Black Panther (2018). Courtsey: Disney/Marvel Studios

Marvel's Black Panther will reopen Saudi Arabian cinemas after a 35-year absence with a gala performance on April 18, The National has learned.

The screening will take place in AMC Entertainment’s - and the Kingdom's - first cinema to open since the laws on public cinemas were relaxed in December.

The building in Riyadh’s King Abdullah Financial District was originally intended as a concert hall. It contains about 600 leather seats, orchestra and balcony levels and marble bathrooms.

An artist's rendering of a movie theatre in the cinema scheduled to open in the King Abdullah Financial District of Riyadh on April 18, 2018. Courtesy Business Wire
An artist's rendering of a movie theatre in the cinema scheduled to open in the King Abdullah Financial District of Riyadh on April 18, 2018. Courtesy Business Wire

AMC plans to build another 40 cinemas in the country over the next five years, with other cinema chains, including the UAE-based Vox cinemas, also eagerly eyeing the lucrative new market of 32 million new pairs of eyes.

The liberalisation of cinemas is just one part of an ongoing transformation process undertaken by Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman as he attempts to prepare Saudi society and economy for the eventual end of oil revenues.

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Read more:

First Saudi cinemas to open by late 2018

Saudi Arabia’s first cinema in 35 years to open this month

How Saudis will stay at home by going out to the cinema

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Black Panther has already taken over $1.2 billion at the global box office, with the potential for the Kingdom to add a significant chunk to that total. Analysts predict that Saudi Arabia could ultimately produce over $1bn a year in cinema revenue, making it one of the world’s top 10 markets.

Marvel were out in force at Dubai’s Middle East Film & Comic Con this weekend, however nobody on their stand was able to comment on the latest news.

A representative said that parent company Disney hoped to make an official statement later today. Italia Film, who distribute Disney’s movies in Gulf Theatres, were unreachable for comment.

The Washington Post's global opinions editor Karen Attiah tweeted that it was "amazing" that a movie celebrating "blackness and African royalty" had been chosen to be the first shown in Saudi cinemas in 35 years.

Look: Middle East Film & Comic Con in Dubai