DUBAI: The big-screen business in Saudi Arabia will be a billion-dollar industry by 2030, according to experts, as regional and global movie operators queue up for a ticket into the Kingdom’s hugely profitable movie market.
Saudi Arabia is expected to amass the largest share of the cinema business in the Arabian Gulf region by 2030, with hundred of cinemas and thousands of screens set to open across the Kingdom over the next 12 years.
Within months of Saudi Arabia formally ending a 35-year-long ban on cinemas, three cinema operation licenses were awarded to operate in the Kingdom, the first was to AMC Theaters, an American chain owned and operated by Wanda Group. It opened the Kingdom’s first modern cinema on April 18 and plans to open around 40 cinemas in 15 cities in Saudi Arabia over the next five years, and between 50 to 100 cinemas in about 25 cities by 2030.
Shortly after, the second license was awarded to VOX Cinemas, now one of Saudi Arabia’s biggest movie operators. It plans to open 600 screens in Saudi Arabia in the next five years, the same number of screens as the company’s regional footprint combined.
In July, it was announced the the third license had been awarded to the Al-Rashed United Group — Empire Cinema — which plans to build 30 theaters in the country over the next three years. And last month, a fourth license was awarded to Lux Entertainment Co., which plans to open 300 cinemas across the Kingdom within five years.
VOX, which plans to open 80 new screens over the next 12 months, says the Kingdom will form half of its overall revenues in the Middle East over the next five years.
“Saudi has huge opportunities and is expected to become a significant box office market worth $1 billion (SR3.75 billion),” said Cameron Mitchell, CEO of Majid Al-Futtaim Cinemas, of which VOX Cinemas is a subsidiary.
He said the Kingdom’s box-office market is expected to become “one of the largest” in the world, with a majority of its 32-million population under the age of 30. “The market is massive and full of opportunities as the population is young and enthusiastic about cinema.”
Will Saudi Arabia ever host the world premiere of a Hollywood movie? No one’s saying right now, but with such a covetable box-office market, it may only be a matter of time.