EXCLUSIVE: Disney/20th Century Studios’ West Side Story is due to begin international box office rollout on Wednesday this week, but it will not be heading to movie theaters in Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Bahrain, Oman, Qatar or the UAE, Deadline has learned. While an official reason has not been made public, the situation is believed to be related to the character called Anybodys.
The Steven Spielberg-directed adaptation of the classic musical was submitted across the Middle East region, but Saudi Arabia and Kuwait did not approve distribution certificates while censors in the other markets listed above requested that cuts be made. Disney opted not to make the edits requested, Deadline understands.
The situation is somewhat reminiscent of what happened in early November with Disney/Marvel’s Eternals which featured a same-sex kiss. At the time, Saudi Arabia and censors in other markets also sought cuts beyond any scenes of intimacy and Disney opted not to make them, hence distribution certificates weren’t issued. In the UAE, a version of Eternals was ultimately released that removed all scenes of intimacy — heterosexual and homosexual as is generally normal practice for these markets.
West Side Story is opening this Friday domestically and has already received strong reviews with a 95% Fresh score on Rotten Tomatoes. Lead Rachel Zegler was named Best Actress by the National Board of Review, and the New York Film Critics Circle gave the movie a nod for Best Cinematography.
Zegler and Ansel Elgort star as Maria and Tony, young lovers trying to overcome the ethnic differences and environment that threatens to keep them apart.