Saudi wrestling comedy “Sattar” is scoring record-breaking results at the home box office where the satiric actioner has obtained over 159,000 admissions and grossed $2.2 million since its Dec. 29 release. The film has become the highest grossing local title following the kingdom’s Dec. 2017 removal of its 35-year-old religion-related ban on movie theaters.

Directed by Kuwaiti’s Abdullah Al Arak, “Sattar,” which launched positively in early December from the Red Sea Film Festival in Jeddah, has now rapidly bested the the 151,000 admissions pulled by Saudi Arabia’s previous record holder for a local title, “Born a King,” through its entire run. Released in 2020, “Born a King” is an inspirational biopic of Saudi King Faisal, set against the backdrop of his diplomatic mission as a young prince in London in 1919 at the tender age of 13 to plead for non-intervention in Arabia.

By contrast, “Sattar” stars Saudi actor and stand-up comedian Ibrahim Al Hajjaj (“Rashash”) who plays Saad, a man whose floundering personal and professional life prompts him to pursue his childhood dream of becoming a freestyle wrestler. The dream turns into a nightmare when a clip of him getting beaten gets leaked during the auditions. 

The family comedy currently resonating with local audiences is produced by Saudi Arabia’s prolific production company Tefaz11 via its new production arm, AlShimaisi Films, in tandem with Muvi Studios.

Front Row Arabia, a joint-venture between prominent MENA distributor Front Row Filmed Entertainment and leading Saudi exhibitor Muvi Cinemas, is handling its theatrical distribution. 

According to Front Row, Arabic films account for a hefty 31% of Saudi’s 2022 $250 million box office haul, but Saudi titles still represent a small percentage of those releases. 

“Up until now, Saudi cinema has struggled to attract audiences,” said Gianluca Chakra, Front Row’s CEO in a statement. “Sattar has managed to break the mould thanks to how it reflects the true culture of Saudi Arabia, which is something that AlShimaisi Films, Telfaz11 and Muvi clearly understand,” he added.

“We’re beyond delighted to see the historical results that Sattar has achieved” said Ibraheem Alkhairallah, head of AlShimaisi films. “It’s an honor for us to see the film become the biggest Saudi film ever and this highlights how strong Saudi cinema can be and that there is a huge appetite for Saudi-led stories.”  

Following its release in Saudi, “Sattar” is set to go out via Front Row in cinemas across the UAE, Kuwait, Qatar, Bahrain, Oman and Iraq.

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