US chain AMC signs deal to build and operate movie theaters in Saudi Arabia

This screen grab shows a scene from a popular movie Wadjda, by the renowned Saudi director Haifaa Al-Mansour.
Updated 13 December 2017
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US chain AMC signs deal to build and operate movie theaters in Saudi Arabia

RIYADH: Giant US cinema chain AMC Entertainment has signed a deal to build and operate movie theaters in Saudi Arabia after the Kingdom lifted a decades-old ban.
The deal, announced by AMC in a statement and confirmed by Saudi state media on Tuesday, will see the company form a joint venture with Saudi Arabia’s vast Public Investment Fund.
AMC said it hoped to “put the industry’s best foot forward” in Saudi Arabia as the country opens up to modern entertainment.
“This announcement is a historic moment for the theatrical exhibition industry and a tremendous opportunity to connect AMC’s movie products with the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia’s more than 30 million citizens, many of whom we know are movie fans based on their regular visits to cinemas in neighboring countries,” AMC CEO Adam Aron said in the statement.
The Kansas-based company is the biggest cinema operator in the world, with 11,000 screens concentrated in the US and Europe, many operating under its Odeon brand.
It will face stiff competition from regional heavyweights, namely Dubai-based VOX Cinemas, which is the leading operator in the Gulf and Middle East with more than 300 screens.
The CEO of VOX parent company Majid Al-Futtaim, Alain Bejjani, told AFP on Monday that it would be looking to expand into Saudi Arabia.
“We... are committed to developing Vox Cinemas in Saudi Arabia and (to) make sure that every one of our Saudi customers will have a Vox Cinema close to them where they will be able to experience what they have been experiencing outside Saudi Arabia — in Saudi Arabia,” he said.
Saudi Arabia announced on Monday it was lifting the ban as part of a far-reaching reform drive by Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman.

The government said it would begin licensing cinemas immediately and the first movie theaters are expected to open in March.
The country is expected to have more than 300 cinemas — with over 2,000 screens — by 2030, giving rise to an industry that would contribute $24 billion to the economy, according to the Saudi culture ministry.


King Salman attends closing ceremony of King Abdul Aziz Camel Festival near Riyadh

Updated 19 sec ago
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King Salman attends closing ceremony of King Abdul Aziz Camel Festival near Riyadh

RIYADH: King Salman on Saturday attended the closing ceremony of the 3rd King Abdul Aziz Camel Festival near the capital Riyadh.

The king was received on his arrival by Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, Riyadh Gov. Prince Faisal bin Bandar, Interior Minister Prince Abdul Aziz bin Saud bin Naif, and a number of officials.

The king welcomed Kuwait’s Crown Prince Sheikh Nawaf Al-Ahmad Al-Jaber Al-Sabah, Dubai Crown Prince Sheikh Hamdan bin Mohammed Al-Maktoum, Oman’s Sultan Qaboos bin Said’s representative Sheikh Saad bin Mohammed Al-Saadi, Kyrgyz Premier Mukhammedkalyi Abylgaziev, representative of the King of Bahrain for Charity Works and Youth Affairs Sheikh Nasser bin Hamad Al-Khalifa and other guests at the camel festival’s closing ceremony. The king then handed prizes to winners of the festival. King Salman and the attendees also watched a folk dance performance.

Saudi Camel Club Chairman Fahd bin Falah bin Hithlin said that the king’s patronage of the closing ceremony was the culmination of efforts to organize the festival and consolidate its heritage.