Coming soon: 600 VOX screens to Saudi Arabia

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VOX Cinemas, owned by the Dubai-based Majid Al Futtaim conglomerate, plans to open hundreds of cinemas across the Kingdom.
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The expansion of VOX cinemas is part of a wider plan to open 350 cinemas across the country by 2030. VOX Cinema
Updated 20 April 2018
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Coming soon: 600 VOX screens to Saudi Arabia

  • Saudi Arabia plans to open 350 cinemas by 2030, with 2,500 screens
  • The cinema opening is expected to contribute $25 billion to the economy

DUBAI: Majid Al Futtaim (MAF), the UAE-based malls and leisure group, is to make the biggest investment yet in Saudi cinema with a SR2 billion ($533 million) plan to open at least 600 VOX Cinema screens across the Kingdom over the next five years.

The plan was announced the day after Saudi film fans gathered for the first public showing of a movie for 35 years, and just as the Dubai-based group received a cinema license from the Saudi authorities. 

The first movie will be shown in a four-screen multiplex in Riyadh Park Mall in the coming days, and will be followed by a rapid opening program across the country, Alain Bejjani, MAF chief executive, told Arab News.

“We’re bringing Saudi Arabia the best cinema in the world, and on a scale that will make a difference. It is a historic day,” he said.

The first showings in Riyadh Park mall — in an area that was previously intended as a venue for MAF’s Magic Planet children’s area — will include “animation, family-friendly and educational films.”

But MAF will use its distribution agreement with US Hollywood giant 20th Century Fox to bring the full range of movies to the Kingdom. It will also encourage local film-making talent, Bejjani said.

“We will be able to show anything Saudi law allows us, just as in all the other countries where we operate in the region,” he added.

The boom in Saudi cinema and the wider leisure sector is a result of the transformation of the Kingdom’s economy and society under Vision 2030 reforms.

“Majid Al Futtaim is proud to be one of the largest private sector investors in the Kingdom and Vision 2030, with an investment commitment now increasing to SR16 billion,” the developer said in a statement.

In addition to the cinema expansion, which will involve a SR2 billion investment program and at least 600 screens, MAF also has two big mall projects under way in Riyadh. It is looking to build others across the country, as well as expanding its retail and fashion businesses. The total investment is projected to create up to 120,000 jobs, of which 3,000 will be in VOX cinemas.

Bejjani said that there are plans to build “many more malls,” and that he had already begun to identify sites for these and for new cinemas.” We operate the cinemas like we operate Carrefours (the French supermarket chain for which MAF has exclusive franchise rights in the region), so the cinemas do not have to be in malls. We do not need partnerships, but we are not closed to them either,” he said.

Further cinemas currently under design include MAF’s Mall of Saudi and City Center Ishbiliyah, with both locations opening in Riyadh in future, with additional announcements on new locations expected soon. 

The partnership with 20th Century Fox will be exclusively distributing Fox content to all cinemas across Saudi Arabia. In 2018, the company is planning to release anticipated hits including “The Darkest Minds,” “The Predator” and the James Cameron produced “Alita: Battle Angel,” MAF said.

Bejjani explained: “We want to contribute to Saudi cultural life. We’re very committed and it means a lot to us. We want to help Saudi youth to express themselves and contribute to the evolution of society.

“I have no doubt that the Vision 2030 transformation will succeed. It is the cornerstone of the Saudi future, and the country has all the potential to turn this into reality. The leadership is committed to making it work as fast as possible,” he added.

“Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman has said that Saudi Arabia is only operating at 10 percent of its potential, and I agree with him. We want to help them achieve the other 90 percent,” Bejjani said.

VOX Cinemas across the region also includes fine dining outlets from British chef Gary Rhodes, and these outlets could also be incorporated into the MAF projects, along with outdoor viewing screens.

Saudi Arabia plans to open 350 cinemas across the country by 2030, which will include 2,500 screens and is expected to contribute around $25 billion to the economy.

The MAF announcement came after the first public showing of the movie “Black Panther” to an elite audience at a new cinema in Riyadh, built and operated by AMC, the American cinema operator.

Bejjani said: “A lot of other operators have declared their interest and their intentions, but we are the only ones who are ready and on the ground. We know the customer, know the market and have a proven track record.”


Oil slips 1% as US stockpiles surge, economic concerns grow

Updated 1 min 25 sec ago
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Oil slips 1% as US stockpiles surge, economic concerns grow

  • Crude futures already fell by around 2 percent the previous day
  • US crude oil production climbed by 100,000 barrels per day (bpd) to 12.2 million bpd
SINGAPORE: Oil prices dropped by around 1 percent on Thursday, extending falls from the previous session amid surging US crude inventories and weak demand from refineries.
Brent crude futures, the international benchmark for oil prices, were at $70.36 per barrel at 0652 GMT, down 63 cents, or 0.9 percent, from their last close.
US West Texas Intermediate (WTI) crude futures were down by 51 cents, or 0.8 percent, at $60.91 per barrel.
Crude futures already fell by around 2 percent the previous day.
“Rising inventories and a slowdown with refined product demand could suggest we could see further pressure (on prices),” said Edward Moya, senior analyst at futures brokerage OANDA.
US crude oil inventories rose last week, hitting their highest levels since July 2017, due to weak refinery demand, the Energy Information Administration said on Wednesday.
Commercial US crude inventories rose by 4.7 million barrels in the week ended May 17, to 476.8 million barrels, their highest since July 2017, the EIA data showed.
Beyond weak refinery demand for feedstock crude oil, the increase in commercial inventories also came on the back of planned sales of US strategic petroleum reserves (SPR) into the commercial market.
US crude oil production climbed by 100,000 barrels per day (bpd) to 12.2 million bpd, putting output near its record of 12.3 million bpd reached late last month.
Ole Hansen, head of commodity strategy at Saxo Bank, said “concerns about slowing (oil) demand growth due to the negative impact on the global economy of the US–China trade war” were also weighing on oil prices.
Countering these bearish price factors have been escalating political tensions between the United States and Iran, as well as ongoing supply cuts led by the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) that started in January in an effort to prop up the market.
“Large but opposing forces have kept Brent in a $70-$75 per barrel range in recent weeks,” Morgan Stanley said in a note on oil markets published this week.
“Macroeconomic data has rapidly deteriorated, and this is reflected in weaker oil demand. At the same time, downside risk to supply is materializing in key countries (adding to OPEC’s production cuts),” the US bank said.
“On balance, however, we still see tightness in 2H19,” Morgan Stanley said, adding it expected Brent to trade in the $75-$80 per barrel range in the second half of 2019.
French bank BNP Paribas said high inventories meant that OPEC would likely keep its voluntary supply cuts in place.
“Supply management is here to stay,” the bank said.