JEDDAH: Jeddah’s first cinema opened its doors to the public on Monday, and an industry expert told Arab News he expected up to 35 million people in the Kingdom to go to the movies every year.
Cinemas were banned in the country for decades until the first one opened last April in Riyadh.
Cameron Mitchell, CEO of the regional cinema chain Majid Al Futtaim, said Saudi Arabia had the capacity for high audience numbers.
He was speaking at the opening ceremony for Vox Cinemas in Jeddah‘s Red Sea Mall.
“If you look at Dubai we have some 15 million customers there per annum. On the short-term goal in Saudi Arabia we are expecting the market to reach about 30 million customers,” he said.
Research from PwC Middle East in November estimated that total cinema revenue in Saudi Arabia would reach $1.5 billion by 2030. The forecast was based on a projected 2030 population of 39.5 million, and 6.6 screens per 100,000 people.
Last year, Vox Cinemas said it would be investing $533 million to open 600 theaters in the next five years.
“Some 95 percent of our employees here are from Saudi Arabia. In any country where we operate cinemas, we localize the team. We have an Egyptian team in Egypt and a Lebanese team in Lebanon and of course Saudis in Saudi Arabia,” Mitchell said.
“We expect the cinemas in the Red Sea Mall to be showing…a mix of films, probably about 300 films per year with at least six new movies every single week. It will take a while for us to have enough cinemas for everyone to get to go to the cinema whenever they want to.
“In my opinion, the cinema is a good place for families to spend time together in a social environment, especially in hot summer days, when outdoor activities are limited.”
There will be cinemas in Tabuk by the end of this year or by early 2020 and the Saudi government has been very helpful, he said, adding: “We got the license last April and we were keen to do the required steps and follow the regulations, and that went smoothly.”
There would be no issues with gender segregation as there were cinemas for families and separate ones for bachelors, according to Mitchell.
The lifting of the cinema ban is part of the Vision 2030 reform plan.