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The Saudi Big Screen scene…a picture of health

Netflix and streaming videos are a threat to the movie industry.

But what Saudi is doing to the big screen dwarfs any effort at replacing movie going any time soon.

Saudi Arabia’s lifting in December 2017 of a 35-year-old ban on movie theatres has prompted a race to build screens in what is considered a potential major movie market.

Exhibition giant AMC is going ahead with an ambitious plan to build dozens of theatres across Saudi Arabia following the grand opening of its first in Riyadh a year ago, According to the Hollywood Reporter.

"After a lot of reflection, we decided to move ahead," said CEO Adam Aron.

" There are 33 million people in that country who like movies and who have been deprived of seeing movies the way they were meant to be seen, in a movie theatre. By bringing movies to the Middle East, we are doing a very good thing and 70% of the population is under the age of 30," said the executive.

AMC expects to open 40 to 50 cinemas in Saudi Arabia in the next three to five years, including a total of five to 10 by the end of 2019, and aiming to have 100 theatres built by 2030.

Coming soon..

The National Association of Theatre Owners president and CEO John Fithian said that at least two other chains are pursuing plans to open their own locations in Saudi Arabia, but declined to name them.

We’re coming off a 2018 that was the biggest box office in the 100-year-plus history of cinema. The growth domestically was up $800 million above 2017.

Variety said Fithian had recently spoken with numerous members of his organization about sorting out licensing issues with the Saudi government and continuing with plans to put cineplexes in the Middle Eastern kingdom.

Saudi Arabia’s first culture minister, Prince Badr Bin Abdullah Bin Farhan, recently unveiled a document called “Our Culture, Our Identity” outlining initiatives to kickstart the local arts sector.

Saudi Arabia’s first film fest has been named the Red Sea International Film Festival and will be based in the historic district of Jeddah.

Variety says that the ambition is to make it a major pan-Arabic event for emerging talent with the first edition of the fest slated for 2020.