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Movie watching in Saudi to explode as more screens enter market

The Saudi cinema industry will no longer be confined to Riyadh, but the entire kingdom will host numerous operators vying for a share of the lucrative market.

Saudi is after 35 years open for the entertainment business and its population is eager for a taste of what global billions take for granted.

Read: Everything you need to know about the Saudi cinema craze, here!

Indian interest

With two more cinema operators announcing their intentions to open hundreds of screens across the Kingdom, Saudi’s movie future looks brighter than ever, according to those lining up for access to the country’s lucrative box-office market, according to Arab News

Said PV Sunil, managing director of Carnival Cinemas, one of the fastest-growing and largest multiplex chains in India:“…from what I can see, there will be plenty of competition from cinema operators in the world ready to do business in one of the most exciting cinema markets.”

Sunil said Carnival Cinemas plans to open 500 screens across the Kingdom in the next five years, with a focus on more remote areas.
“Our aim is to spread cinemas far and wide, to all the remote locations..maybe to set up smaller cinema theatres rather than big multiplexes, and to take movies to every person in Saudi Arabia,” he said.
“And we already have the distribution license,” added Sunil, speaking exclusively to Arab News.

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Yes to Novo

Novo Cinemas, which has 11 screens in the UAE and one in Bahrain, also announced it is in talks to roll out its enterprise to Saudi.

Novo Cinemas said it may manage 1,000 cinema screens within five years. The company currently operates 124 screens in 10 locations with 19,000 seats.

Four licenses have already been awarded to major cinema operators in 2018.

Debbie Stanford-Kristiansen, CEO of Novo Cinemas, headquartered in Dubai, a year 2000 company, said it to open its first screens in Saudi Q4 2019.

According to research by PriceWaterhouseCoopers (PWC), the number of cinema screens is expected to increase by 38.45 to 1,800 in the MENA region in the next three to five years, while more than $3.54 billion investment in cinema screens across the Gulf is expected to help boost the cinema industry’s expansion plans, Arab News reports.
Earlier this year, Saudi granted its fourth operational license to Lux Entertainment, a partnership between Cinepolis, the biggest cineplex chain in Mexico, Al-Hokair Group for Tourism and Development and Al-Tayer Group.

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Lux and Vox

Lux plans to open 300 screens in 15 cities around Saudi in the next five years.
“The other licenses have been awarded to AMC Theaters, an American chain owned by Wanda Group which plans to open around 40 cinemas in 15 cities in Saudi over the next five years, and between 50 to 100 cinemas in about 25 cities by 2030; VOX Cinemas, now one of Saudi Arabia’s biggest movie operators, which plans to open 600 screens by 2022; and the Al-Rashed United Group – Empire Cinema, which plans to build 30 theaters in the country over the next three years,” reported Arab News.

Cinepolis, one of the biggest global cinema operators, has 5,371 screens and about 1.1 million cinema seats in 15 countries.

Cameron Mitchell, CEO of Majid Al-Futtaim Cinemas, of which VOX Cinemas is a subsidiary, said the Kingdom, in addition to the sheer number of screens rolled out across the country, would soon see other exciting developments in the film industry, including the development of locally produced content and film, and international Hollywood makers using the country as a destinations spot for filming.

“Our goal is to heavily invest in Saudi Arabia, upwards of $4.8 billion. Next year, we will open 100 screens in the Kingdom alone. Healthy competition is great,” Mitchell said.
“We are very excited about our Riyadh Front location, The Roof, and the Mall of Saudi, when open, will be the best cinema in the world without a doubt.”

Mitchell said the company would also be supporting local Saudi filmmakers, saying VOX is “desperate for more local content.”
Earlier this year, VOX signed an exclusive distribution deal with Myrkott, the Saudi production company behind YouTube animated series “Masameer” that has attracted more than 700 million views across social media.

Courtesy of Arab News

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Mitchell added: “Overall, we will operate around 1,200 cinema screens across the region in five years’ time – that’s how fast we are going to expand.”

Mohamed Al-Hashemi, country manager for Saudi Arabia at Majid Al-Futtaim, said while the first VOX screens are in two of the Kingdom’s major cities, Jeddah and Riyadh, the chain plans to roll out cinemas across the country, with a focus on Madinah, Dammam, Tabuk, Alkhobar and cities in more remote locations.

Just as the UAE has attracted Hollywood movie producers to shoot blockbusters including “Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol” and “Fast & Furious 7,” Al-Hashemi is confident that film producers will turn to the Kingdom for shoot locations.

Courtesy of Arab News
Arturo Guillén, vice president for EMEA and India for movies at comScore, an analytical company that has been studying cinema trends, said Saudi has the potential to be a Top 10 market globally over the next five years.

“This would mean a global total of box-office takings of up to $1 billion a year. Saudi can definitely compete against Hollywood.”

Construction Week Online (CWO) said the Gulf has 1,300 cinema screens in operation, with the majority of new screens due to open in Saudi Arabia in the years to come.

According to JLL’s Q2 2018 Jeddah Real Estate Market report, the expansion of Jeddah’s entertainment sector and cultural offerings bodes well for several sectors in the kingdom in the long-term, bringing long-term growth to the city’s hotel, residential, and retail industries, reported CWO