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.


Germany, Saudi Arabia agree to turn page after diplomatic row

We should have been clearer in our communication and engagement, said Maas. (AFP)
Updated 50 min 24 sec ago
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Germany, Saudi Arabia agree to turn page after diplomatic row

  • The Saudi Minister of Foreign Affairs, Adel Al-Jubeir, extended an invitation to his German counterpart, Heiko Maas, to visit the Kingdom at the earliest opportunity
  • We aim for close cooperation between our two countries and to this end seek to intensify our dialogue on a broad range of topics: Maas

JEDDAH: Saudi Arabia on Tuesday welcomed a statement by the German foreign minister pledging his intention to work toward strengthening ties and enhancing cooperation between the two countries. 

Riyadh said the relationship between Saudi Arabia and Germany was a “historic and important” one, and the countries played a leading role in bolstering international security and stability, and the global economy. 

The Saudi Minister of Foreign Affairs, Adel Al-Jubeir, extended an invitation to his German counterpart, Heiko Maas, to visit the Kingdom at the earliest opportunity, “so that both countries may begin a new phase of close cooperation in all areas to the benefit of both our countries and peoples.”

Earlier, the German foreign minister said relations had “witnessed misunderstandings” in recent months “which stand in sharp contrast to our otherwise strong and strategic ties. We sincerely regret this.”

The minister said: “We should have been clearer in our communications and engagement in order to avoid such misunderstandings.

“We aim for close cooperation between our two countries and to this end seek to intensify our dialogue on a broad range of topics.

“Saudi Arabia plays an immensely important role for peace and stability in the region and the world. As there is a broad range of bilateral and international issues to discuss, we will do our best to make this partnership with the Kingdom even stronger than before.

“Considering our role in Europe and the world, improving our ties with Saudi Arabia will serve the interest of both nations and peoples.”