Middle East Cinemas Drop New Spider-Man Movie

One scene in 'Across the Spider-Verse' shows a 'Protect Trans Kids' poster
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted Jun 16, 2023 3:40 PM CDT
New Spider-Man Movie Won't Be Shown in Middle East
This image released by Sony Pictures Animation shows Miles Morales as Spider-Man, voiced by Shameik Moore, in a scene from Columbia Pictures and Sony Pictures Animation's "Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse."   (Sony Pictures Animation via AP)

The new blockbuster movie Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse was abruptly removed from cinema listings in more than a dozen Muslim-majority countries without explanation, apparently over the inclusion of a blink-and-you-miss-it transgender poster in the background of one frame, the AP reports. No explicit bans of the film were announced, but there were indications that it will not reach screens. For example, there is no expectation that Across the Spider-Verse will be shown in the United Arab Emirates, said a source close to the film who was not authorized to speak publicly. The source cited rigorous censorship of movies for children and younger viewers.

The superhero film debuted in US cinemas at the beginning of June, tripling the domestic opening weekend revenue of its Oscar-winning predecessor, Into the Spider-Verse. Initially, it was scheduled to open in the Mideast on June 22, ahead of the Muslim holiday of Eid al-Adha. The film was listed in cinema programs as recently as last week in countries such as Kuwait, the UAE, Oman, Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Bahrain, Lebanon, and Egypt, but was abruptly and quietly pulled. No reasons were given. The film includes a scene where a transgender flag printed with the words “Protect Trans Kids” is hanging in the room of Gwen Stacy, a spider superhero and character voiced by Hailee Steinfeld.

Emaar Entertainment, a state-owned entity and parent company of major UAE cinema company Reel Cinemas, confirmed to the AP that it won’t be screening Across the Spider-Verse, which has received overwhelmingly positive reviews. The company attributed the decision to Empire Entertainment, the exclusive theatrical distributor for Sony Pictures movies in the Middle East. In a similar incident last year, Disney’s Lightyear was banned in 13 Muslim-majority nations for featuring a scene with a lesbian kiss. (More movies stories.)

Get the news faster.
Tap to install our app.
Install the Newser News app
in two easy steps:
1. Tap in your navigation bar.
2. Tap to Add to Home Screen.