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Saudi, UAE theaters to screen Barbie this week, despite earlier push to delay

The United Arab Emirates, Bahrain and Qatar have changed the release date of the record grossing film for a second time to Aug. 10, and the film will open in Saudi Arabia Aug. 9.
Barbie movie poster

DUBAI — Some Arab countries decided over the weekend to release the hit summer comedy movie "Barbie" this week, ahead of their original date delayed from July 20 to  Aug. 31. Some countries have raised their age restrictions to 18. 

The United Arab Emirates, Bahrain and Qatar have now moved the record-grossing film's start date to Aug. 10, according to VOX Cinemas and other regional theaters. Saudi Arabian theaters will screen the film a day earlier on Aug. 9. 

Kuwait, Lebanon, Jordan, Oman and Egypt are so far maintaining the delayed premiere date of Aug. 31, according to industry websites. The film was screened in Tunisia and Morocco along with much of the world on July 20.

In Saudi Arabia, Egypt and Lebanon, "Barbie" currently has an age restriction of 18 pending approval at Vox Cinemas. The movie's official rating is yet to be confirmed by the country’s media council, according to Vox. Moviegoers under the age of 18 will not be allowed see it until the final decision is made.

The UAE Media Council approved the movie on Thursday following the completion of “necessary procedures in line with the standards of media content and the UAE age classification,” reported local media outlets. The regional delay stoked fears among Arab fans that the movie would ultimately be canceled due to content deemed inappropriate for local viewers. 

Reviews of the movie say it has no blatant LGBTQ themes or characters, an issue that has prevented movies from being screened in regional countries such as the UAE, Saudi Arabia and Egypt. Pixar’s “Lightyear” was blocked in June due to a same-sex kissing scene.

Also this summer, UAE theaters did not screen “Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse” in June, when it was supposed to hit the Emirates. Saudi Arabia also banned the film, stating that it will not approve any film that “contradicts content controls” in a Twitter post.

“Barbie” — the top movie of the year based on opening weekend sales — has already reeled in $572.1 million from overseas theaters before even opening in the majority of Middle Eastern countries, according to analytics firm Comscore, reported Reuters. Together with domestic sales, the film has earned a total of more than $1 billion. 

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