June 23, 2024

Saudi Arabian thriller “Mandoob,” about a struggling man who becomes an illegal booze runner, beat “Wonka” over the weekend to top the Saudi box office chart while also scoring the biggest opening to date for a local film in the territory.

The groundbreaking Saudi movie, which world-premiered positively in Toronto in September – and more recently bowed regionally at the Red Sea Film Festival in Jeddah – tallied 114,000 admissions and a $1.58 million gross box office intake following its Dec. 14 release. This puts the film way ahead of Warner Bros’ “Wonka,” in second place with roughly 38,000 admissions and a $616,000 total, and Studio Ghibli’s “The Boy and the Heron,” which came in third, according to figures provided by distributor Front Row Arabia.

In “Mandoob,” which is directed by Saudi cinema pioneer Ali Kalthami and produced by studio Telfaz11,  which he co-founded, protagonist Fahad is fired from his job in a call center and becomes a booze runner, plunging into the depths of Riyadh’s underworld as he battles adversity to save his ailing father.

Front Row Arabia – which is a joint venture between distributor Front Row Filmed Entertainment and local exhibitor Muvi Cinemas – previously collaborated on the release of action comedy “Sattar,” also produced by Telfaz11, which after launching at the Red Sea Fest last year scored over 900,000 admissions, ousting “Avatar: The Way of Water” from the top box office slot en route to scoring an eye-popping $11 million, the highest gross ever for a Saudi feature to date.

“Mandoob” has been mastered for theatrical release in both Dolby Vision and Dolby Atmos, in what is being touted as a first for Saudi and Arabic cinema at large.

“The overwhelming response to the opening weekend for ‘Mandoob’ is truly heartening,” Kalthami said in a statement. “We took a leap into uncharted territory, exploring a new genre, and witnessing the audience’s enthusiastic embrace of the film is immensely gratifying. This success is a testament to the incredible efforts of the entire team and I’m eager to continue pushing boundaries and creating impactful narratives in the Saudi film scene.”

Front Row’s CEO, Gianluka Chakra, added: “The exceptional results of ‘Mandoob’ prove once again that local-language films are ready to take over from Hollywood in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. Only 13% of releases in 2023 were local-language, and yet they’ve achieved over 36% of the box office, a steady growth from previous years. This prospect is hugely exciting for Arab cinema and we’d like to congratulate the Telfaz11 and Muvi Studios teams on the film’s success.” 

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