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.


Saudi Arabia ‘racing into the future’ with Formula E

Updated 15 December 2018
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Saudi Arabia ‘racing into the future’ with Formula E

  • A first for Saudi Arabia and the region, the event’s magnitude reflects the Kingdom’s goal of hosting major events and promoting them domestically and globally
  • “This is unprecedented and fabulous,” one concert-goer said. Another said: “I can’t believe I’m in Saudi Arabia.” 

RIYADH: Formula E is one for the books. Attracting fans from all over the world, the mega event — held in the historic Saudi town of Ad Diriyah, a UNESCO World Heritage Site — is set to revolutionize motorsports by using only electric race cars. 

Officially known as the ABB FIA Formula E Championship, the race expects to draw 40,000 attendees, with access not only to the race but also to the Kingdom’s largest ever festival for music, entertainment and cultural activities.

A first for Saudi Arabia and the region, the event’s magnitude reflects the Kingdom’s goal of hosting major events and promoting them domestically and globally.

A milestone was marked as Bandar Alesayi and Ahmed bin Khanen became the first Saudi I-Pace eTrophy racers, sponsored by the General Sports Authority (GSA). 

Both drivers predict increased grassroots support in the Kingdom for youths to train in carting and race-car driving.  

At 1.76 miles long with 21 corners, the track is somewhat tricky for first-time Formula E drivers.

“The system is like Mario Bros when they get the little star and go faster,” said Formula E founder and CEO Alejandro Agag. The new electric circuit in Saudi Arabia has been hailed as one of the best Formula E tracks.

The three-day event is hosting some of the world’s top singers, including Jason Derulo, Enrique Iglesias, Amr Diab, Black Eyed Peas, David Guetta and One Republic, along with DJ EJ. 

“This is unprecedented and fabulous,” one concert-goer said. Another said: “I can’t believe I’m in Saudi Arabia.” 

Outside the venue, Al-Bujairy, one of Ad Diriyah’s historic areas, hosts high-end restaurants, cafes and local designer outlets overlooking the historic district of At-Turaif, which was once home to the Saudi royal family and has newly opened for visitors.

Another area of interest is the Family Zone, with many events and activities to entertain all age groups. Men, women and children are given different driving experiences.

In Ad Diriyah’s Formula E, only one car is allowed per driver instead of two, making pit stops more crucial in terms of timing.  

“Attack mode” gives cars a temporary power boost from 200 to 225 kilowatts, equivalent to 268-302 horsepower. Drivers need to move to a certain area on the track to activate this mode.

“Saudi Arabia is racing into the future with Formula E, as we open the Kingdom to the world in a transformation that’s being supercharged by the Vision 2030 plan, driven forward by Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman,” Prince Abdul Aziz bin Turki Al-Faisal Al-Saud, vice-chair of the Saudi Arabian General Sports Authority, told Arab News.