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.

Saudi, UAE officials discuss Hajj preparations

Updated 34 min 34 sec ago

Saudi, UAE officials discuss Hajj preparations

  • Mashat stressed the Saudi government’s keenness to serve pilgrims

MAKKAH: Deputy Hajj and Umrah Minister Abdul Fattah Mashat received in his office in Makkah on Tuesday the director general of the General Authority for Islamic Affairs in the UAE and his delegation.

The meeting came within the framework of early preparations for the next Hajj season, including coordinating arrangements for pilgrims and services provided for them.

During the meeting, issues of common interest related to Hajj were discussed, at the forefront of which were the facilities provided to pilgrims and easy completion of their procedures.

Then an official meeting was held to discuss arrangements and early preparations to serve pilgrims from the UAE. Subsequently, Mashat and the director general signed an agreement for Hajj arrangements.

In a press statement after the signing, Mashat stressed the Saudi government’s keenness to serve pilgrims.

The director general thanked the Saudi government and all those in charge of the Hajj system for their great efforts.

“We see excellence and advancement in the Hajj management system and by Saudi human cadres,” he said.

“We wish them all the best, and we in the UAE are part of this system and a partner in the service of pilgrims.”