Metro Weekly

Gay Rom-Com “Bros” to Skip Release in Middle Eastern Markets

Middle Eastern countries have previously banned or censored other films featuring LGBTQ characters or depicting same-sex intimacy.

Luke Macfarlane and Billy Eichner in Bros (2022) © 2022 – Photo: Universal Studios.

The Billy Eichner gay-themed romantic comedy Bros will preemptively skip release in Middle Eastern markets to avoid being barred in countries that have cracked down on or censored movies featuring other LGBTQ content.

The R-rated Universal film, which debuts in the United States on Sept. 30, is scheduled to release in most international markets during October and November, but will avoid the Middle East due to “cultural and commercial reasons,” sources close to the studio told the motion-picture industry magazine Variety.

The list of countries where Bros will not debut is not confirmed, but is expected to include Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Egypt, and Kuwait — which have previously censored or banned movies that address LGBTQ issues or same-sex relations, feature pro-LGBTQ themes, or acknowledge the LGBTQ identity of certain characters.

In June, Disney’s Lightyear, the prequel to the children’s Toy Story series, was banned in 14 countries in the Middle East and Asia for featuring a brief same-sex kiss between two female characters. Two months earlier, the Marvel movie Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness was banned in Saudi Arabia and Kuwait for having an openly gay character. In January, West Side Story was barred from theaters in Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Qatar, Bahrain, Oman and Kuwait due to the inclusion of a transgender character.

Bros, which Eichner not only wrote but stars in alongside Luke Macfarlane, features a supporting cast filled with LGBTQ actors, including Bowen Yang, Jim Rash, Harvey Fierstein, Symone, and Miss Lawrence. The movie follows Eichner’s character, a podcaster and museum executive, and his trouble navigating the gay dating world and a romance with Macfarlane’s character. The film is unashamedly queer, poking fun at many LGBTQ tropes and stereotypes, and contains a number of explicit sex scenes.

Eichner has also spoken publicly about the wider cultural significance of Bros, its historic nature — where all the main characters, even straight ones, are portrayed by LGBTQ actors — and what the movie will represent to the LGBTQ community. 

Shawn Robbins, the chief analyst at Boxoffice Pro, told Variety that Bros will likely follow the trajectory of other romantic comedies like The Lost City and Ticket to Paradise, the latter of which had “minimal presence” in Middle Eastern cinemas, and the former of which earned less than 2% of its revenue from Middle Eastern countries, despite grossing $190 million worldwide.

Robbins said that skipping the Middle East shouldn’t make a significant dent in the movie’s box office earnings.

“Comediesin general tend to lean more heavily on a domestic share of revenue, and in fact, it’s highly likely the studio  factored in the expectation of not releasing this film in certain markets when budgeting for production and distribution,” he said.

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