An overseas theatrical ban might prevent Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness from blowing up as big as it should.
The Marvel Cinematic Universe is no stranger to controversies. Despite Disney's best efforts to make sure that the superhero movies are inclusive, adding LGBTQ+ characters in recent outings hasn't been without consequence. For example, theaters in Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, and Qatar, banned Eternals for depicting a same-sex relationship on-screen.
Fast forward to May, and it appears that Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness will follow suit.
Doctor Strange and Wanda will not be here during their journey between universes!#DoctorStrangeInTheMultiverseOfMadness won't be released in Egypt pic.twitter.com/Nqox2vGf5g
— IMAX Egypt (@IMAXegypt) April 23, 2022
The Hollywood Reporter claims that Egypt, Kuwait, and Saudi Arabia have banned the second Doctor Strange film from screening in theaters. It's not yet confirmed if the movie won't make it to box offices in Qatar well, but it is presumed that the ban extends to the said country as well.
While unfortunate, the ban is consistent with the laws in the Gulf region. It's worth noting that homosexuality is illegal in Saudi Arabia, where the death penalty is a legally prescribed punishment for offenders.
The most interesting part about this is that the aforementioned countries issued the ban weeks before the film's launch on May 6. In comparison, the same countries only banned Eternals days before its premiere, and only because Disney refused to cut Phastos' scenes depicting a same-sex relationship. Not to mention, Marvel Studios hasn't confirmed that Xochitl Gomez's America Chavez is an LGBTQ+ character in the movie. Although the Latin-American superhero made waves as the first Latin-American gay character to star in an ongoing Marvel series, the MCU could take a different direction if only for her feature film debut.
Then again, Chavez's queerness and gender preference probably won't play a significant role in Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness.
Having said that, Benedict Cumberbatch's second Marvel solo outing might not do as well as hoped. Even if The Power of the Dog actor is confident that the movie will match Spider-Man: No Way Home, all these bans could affect the new Doctor Strange feature negatively. Then again, editing out LGBTQ+ content from upcoming projects isn't exactly in Disney's best interests either. We're definitely going to keep a close eye on how Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness will do at the global box office in spite of the bans.
At the moment, Matt Reeves' The Batman holds the record for the highest-grossing movie of the year at $758.9 million.