Saudi cinemas will boost movie sector across KSA

Demand for movie content is growing rapidly in Saudi Arabia, with the Starz Play subscriber base doubling every six months since it launched two and a half years ago in the Kingdom. Vikings is the most popular series on the Saudi site, which receives around 40 million hits per month. (Photo courtesy of Starz Play)
Updated 25 December 2017

Saudi cinemas will boost movie sector across KSA

LONDON: Reforms are set to transform the small screen as well as the big screen in Saudi Arabia as film fans anticipate the re-launch of cinemas across the Kingdom next year.
The benefits will be felt across the Saudi entertainment industry, which recently received a SR10 billion ($2.66 billion) boost from the government-owned Public Investment Fund to develop the sector in line with Vision 2030 ambitions.
Danny Bates, co-founder of streaming site Starz Play, said the reintroduction of cinemas to Saudi life is “a big positive for the video streaming sector” and “another step toward bringing quality entertainment to Saudi Arabia.”
Demand for movie content is growing rapidly in Saudi Arabia, with the Starz Play subscriber base doubling every six months since it launched two and a half years ago in the Kingdom.
“Our highest content consumption rates per month are coming from Saudi customers,” Bates said, identifying action and comedy as the most popular genres among subscribers there.
Vikings is the most popular series on the Saudi site, which receives around 40 million hits per month, with comedy classics including Friends and How I Met Your Mother also among the most-viewed.
Rather than creating competition, the introduction of cinemas is likely to catalyze further growth, raising the profile of film across the country, Bates explained.
“If Fast and the Furious 8 is playing in the cinemas, viewers can then turn to us to watch Fast and the Furious 1 through 7.”
In addition, the cinema is an ideal platform for the company’s advertising campaigns. “We’ve done this successfully in the UAE and Kuwait and would hope to do something similar in Saudi Arabia.”
According to Ravi Rao, CEO of Mindshare MENA, lifting the cinema ban will generate a new market for advertisers in Saudi Arabia, with “international and local brands vying to be there.”
The development will have a significant impact on advertising in the Kingdom, creating additional touch points and opening new channels of communication.
“Brand integration in movies will take a bigger turn when Saudi audiences can be targeted,” Rao said.
Advertising spending in MENA has seen a continuous decline in recent years but while the downturn is forecast to continue elsewhere, Saudi Arabia can anticipate growth in the industry, fueled by ambitious reforms that are creating new opportunities for investors.
“Ad spend in Saudi Arabia (including the PanArab TV spends) is now at under $2 billion from a high of $2.5 billion two years ago. But with all the cultural and economic glasnost that is sweeping the country, one can start expecting double-digit growth by 2020,” said Rao.
Ema Linaker, an executive director of digital at Golin, said the seismic shifts taking place as Saudi Arabia pursues its Vision 2030 targets will draw in advertisers formerly focused elsewhere in the region.
“Just this week, Saudi Arabia unveiled the 2018 budget, the largest in the Kingdom’s history with SR978 billion ($261 billion) public spending. With other markets like the UAE set to contract, a lot of the key advertising groups will be pivoting toward the Kingdom to secure a piece of that investment in 2018.”
More than 50 percent of the Saudi population is under 25 and between 65 and 70 percent are under 30 — demographics that appeal to advertisers anticipating an “abundant fanbase” for film in the Kingdom, Linaker added.
Pointing to a Comic-Con event in Jeddah last February attended by more than 10,000 people, she said: “Cinema looks set to become a national pastime for Saudis, thereby driving up audience figures and increasing the amount of people exposed to cinema advertising.”
Access to Saudi audiences will also have a bearing on how advertisers target consumers, injecting new vigor into the industry.
“From a cultural perspective, the opening up of cinema and entertainment sectors such as music and sports will fuel sponsorships and activation to increase ad spends in the near future,” said Roy M Haddad, director of WPP MENA.
“Brands and agencies will quickly re-invent and adapt to the new social and cultural movement in Saudi. Cinema will act as a trigger for many more changes in brand communication, experience and engagement,” he added.
Like the rest of the region, Saudi advertising is heavily weighted toward television, but with a major uplift across digital platforms, media companies are exploring new ways of engaging MENA audiences online.
“I believe like all Gulf countries we will see Saudi Arabia gradually shift toward digital advertising, driven by its mainly young and tech-savvy population,” said Linaker.
Citing Euromonitor, she said that Saudi Arabia’s advertising industry is anticipated to see flat growth over 2016-2021, as the introduction of VAT and additional taxes on certain commodities dampen private consumption.
Meanwhile, international media agencies will beef up their Saudi teams, creating a larger platform for local talent.
“Ogilvy, Leo Burnett and many other major ad agencies have a local footprint in Riyadh and Jeddah but these tend to be satellite offices and attracting quality ad talent has been a constant challenge,” said Linaker.
“However, we are starting to see young talent coming through the ranks born Saudi, educated in Saudi and passionate about developing a creative culture within the Kingdom.”
“With more investment, talent and opportunities arising, I can see Saudi becoming a hot bed of innovation and creativity quite quickly. It is a huge market and full of opportunity.”


A history of Saudi-French relations

Updated 5 min 32 sec ago

A history of Saudi-French relations

  • Diplomatic relations between France and Saudi Arabia have thrived over time

Diplomatic relations between France and Saudi Arabia, encompassing all aspects of mutually beneficial cooperation from trade and cultural agreements to defense pacts, have thrived over time. 

Key Dates

  • 1

    France opens a consulate in Jeddah, its first diplomatic post in the Arabian Peninsula.

  • 2

    Prince Faisal bin Abdul Aziz Al-Saud, the future king of Saudi Arabia, is the first member of the royal family to pay an official visit to France.

  • 3

    Full diplomatic relations begin when France becomes one of the first countries to recognize the Kingdom of Hejaz and Nejd, the forerunner to the unified Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, established in 1932.

  • 4

    Having remained officially neutral throughout the Second World War, while supplying oil vital to the French and Allied war effort, Saudi Arabia symbolically declares war on Germany and Japan.

  • 5

    In his role as Saudi foreign minister, Prince Faisal visits Paris after France becomes one of the first countries to recognize the new Kingdom of Saudi Arabia.

    Timeline Image 1932
  • 6

    Having remained officially neutral throughout the Second World War, while supplying oil vital to the French and Allied war effort, Saudi Arabia symbolically declares war on Germany and Japan.

  • 7

    Following the invasion of Egypt by France, Britain and Israel, King Saud bin Abdul Aziz Al-Saud severs diplomatic relations with France and Britain and halts oil shipments to both countries.

  • 8

    Diplomatic relations with France and Britain are restored.

  • 9

    France and Saudi Arabia sign a cultural and technical cooperation agreement.

  • 10

    The École Française Internationale opens in Jeddah, the first of a series of French schools that have since opened in the Kingdom.

    Timeline Image 1966
  • 11

    France condemns Israeli aggression; King Faisal visits French President Charles de Gaulle in Paris on his first state visit as ruler of Saudi Arabia.

    Timeline Image June 1967
  • 12

    Saudi Arabia and France sign a military assistance agreement.

  • 13

    King Faisal makes a state visit to France, where he is received by President Georges Pompidou.

    Timeline Image October 1973
  • 14

    In a speech on a state visit to Riyadh, Valéry Giscard d’Estaing, the first French president to visit Saudi Arabia, salutes the Kingdom as a world power.

    Timeline Image January 1977
  • 15

    King Khaled bin Abdul Aziz Al-Saud issues a royal decree approving a license for setting up Banque Saudi Fransi (named then Al Bank Al Saudi Al Fransi).

  • 16

    King Khaled travels to Paris on his first state visit to France.

    Timeline Image 1978
  • 17

    France sends equipment and military advisers to help Saudi special forces end the siege of the Grand Mosque in Makkah.

  • 18

    French President Giscard d’Estaing again visits Riyadh.

    Timeline Image March 1980
  • 19

    Newly elected French President Francois Mitterrand’s first official visit outside Europe is to Riyadh.

    Timeline Image September 1981
  • 20

    King Fahd bin Abdul Aziz Al-Saud makes his first state visit to France as ruler of Saudi Arabia.

    Timeline Image 1984
  • 21

    1996: Saudi Arabia and France agree upon a wide-ranging strategic partnership.

  • 22

    Prince Salman bin Abdul Aziz Al-Saud, governor of the Riyadh province and future king of Saudi Arabia, meets French President Jacques Chirac in Paris and signs a charter of cooperation and friendship between Riyadh and Paris.

    Timeline Image April 1997
  • 23

    The Saudi-French Business Council is founded.

  • 24

    Crown Prince Abdullah bin Abdul Aziz Al-Saud makes an official visit to Paris.

    Timeline Image April 2005
  • 25

    French President Jacques Chirac becomes the first western leader to address the Majlis in Saudi Arabia during a state visit.

    Timeline Image March 2006
  • 26

    France and Saudi Arabia sign a defense cooperation agreement.

  • 27

    King Abdullah returns to Paris for an official visit with French President Nicolas Sarkozy.

    Timeline Image June 2007
  • 28

    French President Sarkozy begins a two-day state visit to Saudi Arabia, which includes the signing of a cooperation agreement in the oil, gas and mining resources sectors.

    Timeline Image January 2008
  • 29

    Alliance Française, the organization dedicated to teaching French as a second language, opens offices in Saudi Arabia.

  • 30

    Newly elected French President François Hollande visits King Abdullah in Jeddah to discuss regional issues and continuing cooperation between the two countries.

    Timeline Image November 2012
  • 31

    President Hollande, accompanied by French business leaders, meets King Abdullah in Riyadh on a two-day visit to Saudi Arabia to discuss commercial cooperation and to pledge that the two countries “will work for peace, security and stability in the Middle East.”

    Timeline Image December 2013
  • 32

    Crown Prince Salman bin Abdul Aziz, deputy prime minister and the future king of Saudi Arabia, makes a four-day official visit to France.

    Timeline Image Sept. 1, 2014
  • 33

    xx

    Timeline Image January 2015
  • 34

    President Hollande meets King Salman in Riyadh and addresses the first-ever summit between the Gulf Cooperation Council and France, pledging “to work with all my force to deepen this relationship and strategic partnership, with your member states and with your organization, at all levels.”

    Timeline Image May 5, 2015
  • 35

    Deputy Crown Prince and Defense Minister Mohammed bin Salman meets President Hollande in Paris as France and Saudi Arabia sign trade deals worth $12 billion.

    Timeline Image June 2015
  • 36

    A delegation of the Saudi-French Parliamentary Friendship Committee of the Shura Council meets Foreign Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault at the French Foreign Ministry in Paris to discuss ways to strengthen bilateral relations between the two nations.

    Timeline Image May 15, 2016
  • 37

    French President Emmanuel Macron makes a surprise visit to Saudi Arabia to meet Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman following an Iran-backed Houthi missile attack on Riyadh and to pledge to “work with Saudi Arabia for the purpose of guaranteeing stability in the region and the fight against terrorism.”

    Timeline Image November 2017
  • 38

    Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman is a guest at a gala dinner at the Élysée Palace on a three-day visit to Paris to meet President Emmanuel Macron and secure contracts between French and Saudi companies worth $18 billion.

    Timeline Image April 2018
  • 39

    In Paris, in the presence of Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman and French President Emmanuel Macron, Prince Badr bin Abdullah bin Farhan Al-Saud, governor of the Royal Commission for AlUla, and Jean-Yves Le Drian, minister of Europe and Foreign Affairs of the French Republic, sign an intergovernmental agreement to collaborate on the development of AlUla as a major cultural and tourism destination.

    Timeline Image April 10, 2018
  • 40

    The Royal Commission for AlUla signs an agreement with Campus France to train Saudis who will work in hospitality at AlUla.

  • 41

    The French agency Afalula is founded in Paris to support the development of AlUla.

  • 42

    The AlUla tourism project is launched with plans for a luxury resort designed by French Pritzker-prize-winning architect Jean Nouvel, due to open by 2023.

  • 43

    “AlUla: Wonder of Arabia,” an exhibition at the Institut du Monde Arabe in Paris, highlights the Kingdom’s cultural treasure.

    Timeline Image October 2019
  • 44

    French President Emmanuel Macron is among the world leaders who attend a virtual extraordinary meeting of the G20 focused on the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic and hosted by King Salman.

    Timeline Image March 2020
  • 45

    France condemns a missile and drone attack on Riyadh by Yemen’s Houthi militia.