Pixar’s Lightyear was reportedly banned from screening in Saudi Arabia earlier this week owing to a same-gender kiss between two female characters. This came after Marvel’s Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness was being prohibited owing to the inclusion of a homosexual character, America Chavez (played by Xochitl Gomez). The long list also houses Eternals and West Side Story.
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Although censorship was a prominent subject in 2018, especially considering the Gulf’s attitude on LGBT issues, few expected Saudi Arabia’s predicted cinematic development surge to coincide with a strong push for on-screen inclusion in major Hollywood films. Has it, however, dimmed the outlook?
Is the Middle East still attractive to Hollywood?
Recent bans on movies like ‘Lightyear’ and ‘Doctor Strange and the Multiverse of Madness’ for portraying LGBTQ characters may have dimmed box office expectations after more than three decades, but Hollywood isn’t given up on the country just yet. While there’s no likelihood of the box office reaching $1 billion next year, as Aron predicts, it may likely do so by 2030, according to PwC.
Rob Mitchell, director of theatrical insights at London-based analysts Gower Street claims “if the market could do an 18 percent compound growth rate each year, it will hit $1 billion by 2030. Based on last year’s figures, if it does 18 percent growth rate, it’ll hit $1.05 billion.”
According to Comscore figures, Saudi Arabia’s box office reached $238 million in 2021, a roughly 95 percent increase over 2020 and making it the world’s 15th biggest market. The biggest film in Saudi Arabia in 2020 was Bad Boys for Life, which grossed roughly $8.8 million. With $16.9 million in 2021, it was Spider-Man: No Way Home, nearly double the previous year’s total.
But in 2021, Eternals was barred from release followed by Doctor Strange 2, Thor: Love and Thunder, and now Lightyear. The other big titles, on the other hand, are still coming in. Top Gun: Maverick, the most successful picture since Doctor Strange’s release date, has grossed roughly $9 million, and Jurassic World Dominion is predicted to make a similar amount. Saudi Arabia will conclude 2022 with a box office of roughly $280 million, according to Mitchell, unless the box office increases dramatically from where it is currently.
Source – The Hollywood Reporter