The report states that the ban applies to neighbouring Kuwait as well, but this has not yet been confirmed. Sources in the Middle East told the publication that the decision to restrict the film’s release in Saudi Arabia is related to LGBTQ issues.
While not much is known about the plot, the film introduces the character America Chavez, played by Xochitl Gomez, who, as per her portrayal in the comics, is gay.
Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness was scheduled to release on May 5 across the Gulf countries. Pre-booking is currently unavailable for the film in Saudi Arabia, Kuwait and Qatar. However, bookings are still open in the United Arab Emirates, so the film appears to be on track for a release in that territory.
It may be noted that homosexuality is still officially illegal across the Gulf, and films containing any LGBTQIA+ references are frequently pulled from release.
Chloe Zhao’s Eternals was pulled from cinemas in Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, and Qatar in November 2021. The decision was apparently made over the inclusion of a gay superhero and intimate scenes featuring a same-sex couple in the film. With Tyree Henry’s Phastos, Eternals introduced the first-ever Black gay superhero in a Marvel film. Censors in the Middle East requested edits of the LGBTQIA+ references, which were reportedly turned down by Disney, leading to the ban. However, an edited version did screen in the UAE later.
Steven Spielberg’s West Side Story was also stopped from hitting cinemas in Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Qatar, Bahrain, Oman and Kuwait. The censor boards of the countries in question took issue with a transgender character called Anybodys in the film, played by non-binary actor Iris Menas.