Star wars: Odeon vs. VOX in battle for Saudi movie lovers

Women attend a concert by Yanni in Riyadh recently. The decision to reopen theaters is part of the wide-ranging reforms initiated by Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman. (Reuters)
Updated 13 December 2017

Star wars: Odeon vs. VOX in battle for Saudi movie lovers

RIYADH: Break out the popcorn — the Odeon, the world’s biggest cinema chain, is coming to Saudi Arabia.
Parent company AMC, which operates 11,000 screens mainly in the US and Europe, announced a joint venture on Tuesday with the Public Investment Fund (PIF), the Saudi sovereign wealth fund, to “explore a range of commercial opportunities for collaboration that will support the growth of the Kingdom’s entertainment sector.”
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 chief executive Adam Aron said.
The Odeon chain will face stiff competition from Dubai-based VOX Cinemas, the leading operator in the Gulf and Middle East with more than 300 screens.
Alain Bejjani, chief executive of VOX’s parent company Majid Al Futtaim, said on Monday they 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 said on Monday it was lifting the ban on cinemas and would begin licensing them immediately. 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, and the industry will contribute $24 billion to the economy.
The opening of cinemas paves the way into a potentially huge market for foreign investors, according to John Fithian, president of the National Association for Theater Owners in the US, who led a delegation that met Saudi officials.
“This could be a billion-dollar market down the road” and could employ more than 20,000 people, Fithian said, and companies from the UAE and the US were bidding for a slice of the windfall.


Two new academies to boost Saudi arts, heritage and music

Updated 19 August 2019

Two new academies to boost Saudi arts, heritage and music

  • One academy specializing in heritage and traditional arts and crafts will start receiving applications in autumn 2020
  • A second academy dedicated to music will receive 1,000 students and trainees from 2021

JEDDAH: Saudi Arabia is to set up arts academies, including two in the next two years, offering a step toward academic qualification and enlarging the Kingdom’s footprint in heritage, arts and crafts, and music.

The initiative is part of the Ministry of Culture’s Quality of Life program. 

The minister, Prince Badr bin Abdullah bin Mohammed bin Farhan, said investment in “capacity building” was one of the most important elements in encouraging the cultural sector, which enjoyed unlimited support from King Salman and Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman.

The Kingdom was rich in diverse arts, talents and artistic production, Prince Badr said, and the academies would be a first step toward academic qualification in the arts within the Kingdom.

One academy specializing in heritage and traditional arts and crafts will start receiving applications in autumn 2020, targeting 1,000 students and trainees in long- and short-term programs. 

A second academy dedicated to music will receive 1,000 students and trainees from 2021.

The music academy in particular will be “the core of music production and talent development in Saudi Arabia,” Saudi musician, composer and producer Mamdouh Saif told Arab News.

The music industry was a large and diverse field, Saif said, and education was crucial. 

“The academy is the right place to launch the music industry in Saudi Arabia, and it will have a significant impact on Saudi youth, and young people in surrounding countries,” he said.

He expects “a very high turnout” for the academy among young Saudis. 

“Due to my expertise in this area, I receive many questions from people who want to learn music, but through private lessons,” he said.

“But the availability of an academy for this purpose, that teaches music in a methodological way, will be the right start for those interested in music.”