How to get a movie ticket in Riyadh: Try early, try often

Film fans celebrate the end of Saudi Arabia’s 35-year ban on cinemas. (AFP)
Updated 09 September 2018

How to get a movie ticket in Riyadh: Try early, try often

  • VOX plans to open 600 screens in the Kingdom over the next five years. But until then, it’s a case of “first come, first served.”

RIYADH: Ever since movie theaters opened in Riyadh in April — bringing an end to the Kingdom’s 35-year ban on public screenings — cinema fans have been scrambling to get to the movies.

Tickets have been regularly selling out online to movies at the only two theaters in Riyadh: AMC in King Abdullah District and VOX in Riyadh Park Mall.  

“I couldn’t seem to book tickets,” said Latifa Al-Dossary, a university student. “They’re always sold out or the timings available are usually early morning. But after trying many times — excessively, obsessively — I made it my mission to get myself and my friends tickets and I succeeded, finally.”

Mona Khalid, a physician at a government hospital, has also had a hard time finding a time to take her family to the movies. “VOX sells tickets for the upcoming three days. I found out after many failed attempts at buying tickets, that early mornings are usually open and the best time to go with the kids,” she said. 

There are also limits to how many tickets filmgoers can buy. At AMC, the maximum number of tickets in one booking is limited to six. However, VOX offers a maximum of 10 tickets per booking. 

VOX plans to open 600 screens in the Kingdom over the next five years. But until then, it’s a case of “first come, first served.”


LA Italian eatery Madeo delights the palate in Riyadh Season pop-up

Updated 15 December 2019

LA Italian eatery Madeo delights the palate in Riyadh Season pop-up

  • Despite minor setbacks he faced while setting up, Vietina considers the experience to be a positive one

RIYADH: Renowned Italian restaurant Madeo has opened up in Al-Murabba for Riyadh Season. 

The pop-up has started brightly, and head chef Gianni Vietina invited Arab News to sample the menu and chat about his experience.

Vietina, in Saudi Arabia for the first time, said that he loved the location he had set up in, and was very happy to be opening up in the Kingdom. 

“The location is gorgeous. At night, with all the lights on, the music going, it’s very nice.”

Despite minor setbacks he faced while setting up, Vietina considers the experience to be a positive one and that the response was even better than he had expected. 

“Like anything new, you have quests, you have problems. Up to now, we’re doing pretty good. We are up and running. We’re comfortable now, which is a shame as we’re leaving pretty soon,” he said.

He added that he would repeat the experience in a heartbeat if he could: “They were nice enough to ask me to stay in Saudi a little longer, but I can’t. I need to go back home. But I would love to come back.”

He said that while he was not planning to open up a permanent restaurant in Saudi Arabia, he would not rule it out completely.  “I’ve been offered options, and friends have offered to show me locations while I’m here, but I can’t do it right now, I just opened a new restaurant two months ago,” he said.

“I chose the dishes that I know that most of the Saudis that visit my restaurant in Los Angeles like.”

Gianni Vietina, Head chef of Madeo

The pop-up’s menu contains most of what the original restaurant offers, including his ever-popular penne amadeo and spaghetti bolognese, with the chefs using a combination of imported and locally sourced ingredients. 

“I chose the dishes that I know that most of the Saudis that visit my restaurant in Los Angeles like,” he told Arab News.

For the pop-up, Vietina has stuck to using halal and alcohol-free ingredients. 

“It was challenging at the beginning. But the bolognese at Amadeo doesn’t contain pork, and I realized after we tried cooking without wine that almost nothing changed. I actually prefer it,” he said.

Madeo is a favorite of Saudis visiting Los Angeles, with Vietina going so far as to describe the restaurant as a “Little Riyadh” on most evenings between July and September. 

He even recognizes some of the customers who have come into the Riyadh pop-up, and always stops over to greet them.

Upon sampling the menu, it’s easy to see why the food at Madeo has remained popular all these years. 

The eggplant parmigiana is a perfect blend of crusty cheese and silky smooth eggplant, with hints of basil and rosemary. 

The bolognese is rich, meaty and decadent, without being too heavy and greasy. And the penne Amadeo, which Vietina has been eating since his childhood, is a timeless classic of crushed tomato, basil, finished off with butter and Parmigiano Reggiano for a creamy, rich flavor.