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
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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.


Disappointed fans hail improved performance by Saudi Green Falcons but defeat ends World Cup dream

Updated 21 June 2018
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Disappointed fans hail improved performance by Saudi Green Falcons but defeat ends World Cup dream

  • A fan named Yousif, who watched the match at the General Sports Authority viewing tent, was happy that the game at least was close this time.
  • Saudi Arabia will face off against Egypt, who also lost their opening two group A games against Uruguay and Russia, on June 25.

JEDDAH: Saudi Arabia’s World Cup dreams were shattered after Uruguay beat the Green Falcons 1-0 in the second of the three group-stage matches. Most Saudi fans in Jeddah were much happier with the team’s performance in game two, following the resounding 5-0 defeat by host nation Russia in the opening match on June 14, but still bitterly disappointed by the loss, which means they cannot qualify for the knockout stages.

Yousif, who watched the match at the General Sports Authority viewing tent, was happy that the game at least was close this time. “Although we lost, the performance was much better than the first game with Russia. I hope we win our next match,” he said.

Nasrah, who watched the game with her two sons, said: “I was really disappointed because we played good today and nothing less than a win should have been acceptable. I am also disappointed to see the looks on my boys faces when the game ended as they were hoping for a win.”

Khalid Al-Raghbi said at least it had been a good match to watch. “We played a bit better today,” he added. “I wish we would have won but at least we performed better than our last match against Russia.”

Before the game, Ibrahim Al-Turki had been optimistic about Saudi Arabia’s chances. “We didn’t expect today’s result. I was thinking that Saudi would win by two goals, and Uruguay would score one,” he said.

The result was especially disappointing given the close result and the number of chances the Saudis had to score, said Badr, who added: “I don’t know what to tell you because we are deeply disappointed. At least if we lost with a big defeat I would say we deserved it. We had the potential but we could not score.”

Shadi Al-Ghamdi said he wished the national team’s much improved performance in their second game had been more evident in their first. “I am very proud of the players, I thought they played very well. I just wish they had played like this against Russia," he said.

Safah was less complimentary and said that the Saudi players had let their fans down, adding: “They seemed scared whenever they attempted to score any goals.”

Saudi Arabia will face off against Egypt, who also lost their opening two group A games against Uruguay and Russia, on June 25. It will be the final game in the competition for both sides, with only pride to play for, as they battle it out to see who will finish third in the group and who will be left in bottom spot.