UAE cinemas scrap Spider-Man film

Poster of ‘Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse’

Sony's latest Spider-Man animation will not hit the silver screen in the United Arab Emirates, a cinema company said Friday, following backlash over an expression of support for transgender rights.

‘Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse’ was originally scheduled to screen across the UAE as of 22 June, but it has since been scrapped from lists of upcoming films on the websites of major cinema operators in the Gulf state.

"'Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse' will not be releasing in the UAE," VOX Cinemas said in response to an enquiry on Facebook.

The cinema company, which operates in the UAE and much of the Gulf region, did not provide a reason for the decision.

Majid Al Futtaim Entertainment, which owns VOX Cinemas, did not respond to a request for comment.

The superhero film, which premiered late last month, has sparked controversy online in the UAE for a scene featuring a flag with the writing "protect trans kids".

"Warning to mothers and fathers, Disney's new Spider-Man movie that will screen in cinemas on the 22 promotes homosexuality and gender transformation. Protect your children," said one social media post that was shared hundreds of times.

In 2021, the UAE said it would stop censoring cinematic releases.

On Monday, the UAE Media Council said "it will not allow the circulation or publication of content contrary to the values and principles of the UAE".

The regulatory body did not elaborate on the reasons for the statement and did not respond to a request for comment.

Last year, Disney's animated movie ‘Lightyear’, which features a kiss between two women, was banned across much of the Middle East including the UAE.

In neighbouring Saudi Arabia, the body that vets films declined to comment about whether ‘Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse’ would show in cinemas.

VOX Cinemas has also removed the film from "coming soon" pages of its websites in Bahrain, Qatar, Oman and Kuwait.