Freestyle Wrestling Comedy ‘Sattar’ Sets Record At Saudi Arabia Box Office For Local Film, Kicks ‘Avatar’ From Top Slot


Saudi Arabian family comedy Sattar, about a depressed man who decides to pursue his dreams of becoming a freestyle wrestling champion, has set a new box office record for a local film at home.

The film has drawn 159,000 spectators for a gross of $2.2m over the course of its first 12 days on release to become the highest-grossing local film of all time in the territory, according to distributor Front Row Arabia, the joint distribution label between pan-Arab distributor Front Row Filmed and local exhibitor Muvi Cinema.

The distributor said that in its opening weekend, Sattar took the top slot from James Cameron’s Avatar: The Way of Water, then on its third week of release, outpacing the blockbuster by more than 40% in terms of admissions and 32% in gross.

Front Row Arabia said that strong word of mouth meant the film title dropped just 11%  on the second weekend, in spite of widespread thunderstorms across the country, which is rare in the market where films usually drop sharply after the first week of release.

The record for a local picture was previously held by the historical drama Born A King, recounting a coming-of-age episode in the life of the late legendary leader King Faisal, which generated 151,000 admissions in 2020.

Sattar is produced by AlShimaisi Films, the new production company of burgeoning content group Telfaz11, and Muvi Studios, the production arm of Muvi Cinemas.

Kuwaiti filmmaker Abdullah Al Arak directs a cast led by stars popular Saudi actor and stand-up comedian Ibrahim Al Hajjaj, best known for the hit action series Rashash and Netflix’s Six Windows in the Desert.

Al Hajjaj plays the freestyle wrestling champion wannabe whose dreams come to fruition after a famous wrestling business manager (Abdulaziz Al Shehri) and a Pakistani coach (Ibrahim Al Khairallah), take the hapless young man under their wing.

The film world premiered at the Red Sea International Film Festival in Jeddah in early December before going on general release in Saudi at the end of the same month.

Following the lifting of its 35-year cinema ban at the end of 2017, Saudi Arabia has transformed into the biggest and most dynamic box office territory in the Middle East and North Africa region. Until now, however, U.S. studio titles have mainly dominated the charts.

“We’re beyond delighted to see the historical results that Sattar has achieved,” said Ibraheem Alkhairallah, CEO of AlShimaisi Films. “This highlights how strong Saudi cinema can be and that there is a huge appetite for Saudi-led stories.”

Faisal Baltyuor, CEO of Muvi Studio, said the success of Sattar fulfilled the company’s founding ambition.

“Our target has been to raise the trust in Saudi films and attract more Saudi audiences to cinema theaters, and that’s exactly what happened when our new hit Sattar made a groundbreaking start, dominating the Saudi box office, superior to Avatar 2 and other international films,” he said.

The film taps into the popularity of the international freestyle wrestling scene in Saudi Arabia, intertwining it with local characters and elements such as a soundtrack featuring sheilat, or Saudi folk music.

Front Row CEO Gianluca Chakra said the success of Sattar marked a seminal moment for local cinema in Saudi Arabia.

“Up until now, Saudi Cinema has struggled to attract audiences. Sattar has managed to break the mold thanks to how it reflects the true culture of Saudi Arabia, which is something that AlShimaisi Films, Telfaz11 and Muvi Studios clearly understand,” said the MENA region distribution veteran.

“This is a groundbreaking result that clearly shows that Saudi cinema is more than capable of competing with the biggest blockbusters out there” 

Sattar is set for a theatrical release in the rest of the Gulf on January 19.

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