Apparently, Saudi Arabia will no longer watch from the shadows. And it has King T’Challa to thank for it. Disney and Middle East distribution partner Italia Film will release Black Panther in the Arab kingdom on April 18, officially ending a ban on cinema screenings conservative Muslim clerics instituted more than 35 years ago.
Per Variety, the mega-blockbuster will premiere on April 18 at a newly constructed 600-seat luxury AMC theater in Riyadh’s King Abdullah Financial District.
The announcement is part of Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman’s Vision 2030, a series of economic and social reforms in the ultra-religious society intended to allow more entertainment as well as Western media and culture into the country.
MBS, as he’s known by his abbreviation, has been on a whirlwind U.S. tour drumming up American investment. The 32-year-old Crown Prince was in Los Angeles this week where he dined with Rupert Murdoch, Disney CEO Robert Iger and Hollywood royalty like James Cameron, Ridley Scott, the Rock, Morgan Freeman and Michael Douglas.
As the first film to screen in Saudi Arabia since the early ‘80s, Black Panther’s release is intended to usher in a new, more open era as the AMC theater will also not be segregated by gender as stipulated by law at other public venues.
No word what other films will follow as content will undoubtedly be strictly monitored. But AMC’s owner, Chinese conglomerate Dalian Wanda, expects to open up to 100 more theaters in the kingdom by 2030. And given 70 percent of the country is currently under the age of 30 and affluent, the theater chain projects theatrical revenue could top $1 billion, making it one of the larger markets for moviegoing.