Exponential box-office revenue growth establishes Saudi Arabia as West Asia’s foremost cinema market

Special The first edition of the Red Sea Film Festival marked a major turning point in Saudi cinema, drawing local talent and film stars from around the world. (Red Sea Film Festival)
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The first edition of the Red Sea Film Festival marked a major turning point in Saudi cinema, drawing local talent and film stars from around the world. (Red Sea Film Festival)
Special Exponential box-office revenue growth establishes Saudi Arabia as West Asia’s foremost cinema market
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Special A picture taken on March 27, 2017 shows a general view of the opening ceremony of the 4th Saudi Film Festival held in Dammam. (AFP)
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A picture taken on March 27, 2017 shows a general view of the opening ceremony of the 4th Saudi Film Festival held in Dammam. (AFP)
Special Saudis gather at a theatre in Riyadh Park mall after its opening for the general public on April 30, 2018 in the Saudi capital. (AFP file photo)
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Saudis gather at a theatre in Riyadh Park mall after its opening for the general public on April 30, 2018 in the Saudi capital. (AFP file photo)
Special Saudi youth are driving cinema ticket sales, with admissions in 2030 expected to total 60-70 million. (Getty Images)
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Saudi youth are driving cinema ticket sales, with admissions in 2030 expected to total 60-70 million. (Getty Images)
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Updated 24 April 2022

Exponential box-office revenue growth establishes Saudi Arabia as West Asia’s foremost cinema market

Exponential box-office revenue growth establishes Saudi Arabia as West Asia’s foremost cinema market
  • Ticket sales recorded 95 percent increase in 2021 over 2020 to cross $238 million mark
  • Kingdom could have 2,600 movie screens by 2030 in an industry worth around $1.2 billion 

JEDDAH: In the four years since the resumption of movie screening across Saudi Arabia, the country has experienced an explosion of investment, filmgoing and box-office takings, establishing it as West Asia’s foremost cinema market.

Box office revenues in the MENA region as a whole are expected to grow by 4 percent compound annual rate to $1 billion between 2019 and 2024, compared with a 2.4 percent decline worldwide, according to data from market tracker Ventures ONSITE.

This regional growth is mainly due to the creation of a sizable new market following the resumption of movie screening in April 2018 after a decades-long ban. The Kingdom far outstrips its neighbors in market size, revenue per user, and growth rate.

Revenues in the Kingdom are expected to show an annual growth rate of 27.68 percent resulting in a projected market volume of $100 million by 2024, while the average revenue per user is expected to amount to $50.04.

This compares favorably with the UAE, which already has a very well-established cinema industry, where revenues are expected to show a smaller annual growth rate of 7.68 percent resulting in a projected market volume of $37 million by 2024 and an average revenue per user of $34.56.

Outside the Gulf region, market growth is forecast to be far smaller. In Egypt, revenues are expected to show an annual growth rate of 13.56 percent resulting in a projected market volume of $12 million by 2024 and an average revenue per user of $6.89.

 

 

For crisis-hit Lebanon, meanwhile, revenues are expected to show an annual growth rate of 7.58 percent resulting in a projected market volume of $4 million by 2024 and an average revenue per user of $12.21.

The lifting of the prohibition on cinema was first announced by Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman in 2017 as part of the Vision 2030 reform agenda, with a view to improving overall quality of life and diversifying the economy away from oil.

If the revenues alone are anything to go by, the policy shift has been a resounding success. Since cinemas officially reopened, box office sales have exceeded 30.8 million tickets, the Saudi Press Agency reported on April 18.

INNUMBERS

56 Theaters licensed in 20 cities since resumption of movie screening.

4,439 Jobs created for young Saudi men and women in the sector.

2,600 Screens expected to come up in the Kingdom by 2030.

$950m Projected box office revenue in the Kingdom in 2030.

In 2021 alone, the industry saw box office-market grow to $238 million — a 95 percent increase over the previous year’s takings of $122 million — far outstripping the UAE’s 2021 total of $130 million, according to ​​a recent report in Variety magazine.

Several analysts believe Saudi Arabia is on pace to become a billion-dollar movie market in the next few years. The professional services network PwC estimates the Kingdom’s industry could be worth $950 million in 2030.

Taking into account non-admission revenues, including advertising and concessions like food and beverages that typically comprise 35 percent of overall takings, the sector could generate $1.5 billion in 2030.

Meanwhile, the General Commission for Audiovisual Media, one of the governing authorities established to regulate and operate cinemas in the Kingdom, estimates there will be 2,600 movie screens in Saudi Arabia by 2030 in an industry worth around $1.2 billion.




Saudi men arrive at a cinema theater in Riyadh Park mall after its opening for the general public on April 30, 2018 in the Saudi capital. (AFP file photo)

According to the Film Commission, a Saudi government body affiliated with the Ministry of Culture, established in February 2020, the sector has already created jobs for 4,439 young Saudis, fulfilling a core goal of the Kingdom’s Vision 2030 reform agenda.

Variety magazine confirmed in a November 2020 report, citing figures released during the META Cinema Forum exhibitors’ conference, that Saudi Arabia had overtaken the UAE to become the region’s top-grossing territory, with more than $73 million in theatrical movie ticket sales over the past 40 weeks — a roughly $2 million increase in box office returns compared with the same period in 2019.

The UAE during the same period in 2020 had generated about $51 million, roughly a quarter of its 2019 box-office takings , the magazine said.

“We believe that Saudi Arabia is the only cinema market globally to have expanded in 2020,” Cameron Mitchell, CEO of prominent Middle East exhibitor VOX Cinemas, was quoted by Variety as saying. This despite the fact that, due to the pandemic, cinemas were shuttered in the Kingdom between March and the middle of June.




Saudi youth are driving cinema ticket sales, with admissions in 2030 expected to total 60-70 million. (AFP)

Mitchell said that as a theatrical market, the Middle East in 2019 was worth $600 million, of which Saudi accounted for a $110 million share and the UAE roughly $250 million. 

Much of Saudi Arabia’s remarkable box-office success in the space of just four years is attributable to the huge investments the Kingdom has seen in the form of multiplex cinemas.

Under Vision 2030, the Kingdom aims to attract domestic and international investors, increase household spending on entertainment from 2.9 percent to 6 percent, and develop a market worth SR30 billion ($1.9 billion) in recreational services.

In April 2018, coinciding with the resumption of movie screening, the Kingdom’s Development Investment Entertainment Company opened its first cinema in the King Abdullah Financial District in Riyadh.

Since then, 56 theaters with 518 screens have been licensed in 20 cities, according to the Film Commission. In that time, 1,144 movies in 22 languages ​​from 38 countries have been shown, including 22 Saudi films.

According to a recent Variety magazine report, citing data from US marketing analysis firm Comscore, the number of multi-screen movie theaters in Saudi Arabia grew from 33 locations at the start of 2021 to 53 venues by December 2021 — an increase of 20 new locations.

With Saudi Arabia’s population forecast to be 39.5 million by 2030, analysts believe the Kingdom has the potential to absorb up to 2,600 screens.


Top 10 box office hits in Saudi Arabia, 2021

 

  • 1. “Waafet Reggaala,” Empire, $15.08 million 

  • 2. “Spider-Man: No Way Home,” Sony, $11.2 million   

  • 3. “Cruella,” Disney, $9.1 million   
  • 4. “Wrath of Man,” Eagle Films, $8.3 million   
  • 5. “Mesh Ana,” N Stars, $8.2 million 
  • 6. “No Time to Die,” Phars, $8 million 
  • 7. “Fast & Furious 9,” Universal, $7.8 million 
  • 8. “Venom: Let There Be Carnage,” Sony, $6.7 million 
  • 9. “A Quiet Place 2,” Paramount, $6.1 million 
  • 10. “Mama Hamel,” Empire, $5.9 million 

Depending on how rapidly the Kingdom’s market evolves, it could potentially generate 60 to 70 million admissions in 2030.

Saudi-owned Muvi Cinemas operates the highest number of local cinemas, followed by (Dubai-based) VOX Cinemas, US theater chain AMC, the world’s largest cinema operator, Lebanon’s Empire Cinema, and Mexican-owned Cinepolis.

Prior to the pandemic, VOX set out plans to invest $533 million in the Kingdom to open 600 screens, including at least four multiplexes in partnership with IMAX, creating 3,000 new jobs over a period of five years.

Cinepolis and Al-Tayer Group have partnered with Al-Hokair Group, while iPic Entertainment is exploring opportunities with BAS Global Investments Company to develop 25 to 30 sites over the coming decade.

Meanwhile, India’s PVR Limited is exploring options with the UAE-based Al-Futtaim Group, while CJ 4DPLEX has signed a deal with Cinemacity.

 

 

Kuwait National Cinema Company and Dubai-based distributor Front Row Filmed Entertainment expect to develop 12 multiplexes through their subsidiary Cinescape, while Al-Rashed Empire Cinema consortium has received a license to enter the Kingdom’s marketplace.

Infrastructure and investment are not the only reasons for the Saudi success story. Understanding the audience and knowing what films to screen has also been integral.

Around one third of Saudi Arabia’s total population is made up of expatriates, including 3 million Indians, concentrated in the provinces of Riyadh and Makkah.

Market analysts say a strategy that offers filmgoers a mix of Hollywood, regional, Bollywood and local content is a surefire way to pull audiences into cinemas.

To cater for such a broad array of tastes and interests, some 340 new feature films were released into Saudi cinemas in 2021 alone — up from 222 in 2020.

Of course, what Saudi officials would like to see in the coming years is homegrown movies making the top box-office rankings.

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Saudi Arabia announces vital developmental projects in Yemen

Saudi Arabia announces vital developmental projects in Yemen
Updated 30 June 2022

Saudi Arabia announces vital developmental projects in Yemen

Saudi Arabia announces vital developmental projects in Yemen
  • Initiatives include 17 development projects in 6 sectors, valued at $400 million
  • A further $200 million will provide oil derivatives to operate power stations

RIYADH: Saudi Arabia has announced a number of vital developmental projects in Yemen to bolster the economy, the Kingdom’s deputy defense minister said on Thursday.

“The initiatives include 17 development projects in 6 sectors, valued at $400 million, in addition to $200 million in oil derivatives for power stations,” Prince Khalid bin Salman tweeted.

The projects will be carried out by the Saudi Development and Reconstruction Program for Yemen and aim to help the Yemeni people.

Prince Khalid met with the President of the Yemeni Presidential Leadership Council Dr. Rashad Al-Alimi and members of the council to convey the Kingdom’s support and appreciation for their efforts.

The deputy defense minister said Saudi Arabia is committed to alleviating the suffering in Yemen and achieving security, peace, stability, and economic development.


Saudi Heritage Commission launches partnership with Noon.com

Saudi Heritage Commission launches partnership with Noon.com
Updated 30 June 2022

Saudi Heritage Commission launches partnership with Noon.com

Saudi Heritage Commission launches partnership with Noon.com
  • Local artisans will be able access to a larger consumer audience through the Noon Mahali program

RIYADH: The Heritage Commission on Thursday signed a cooperation agreement with Noon, an online shopping platform, to empower local businesses in Saudi Arabia, Saudi Press Agency (SPA) reported.

A ceremony was held at the Commission's headquarters to commemorate this partnership, which was attended by Heritage Commission CEO Dr. Jasir Suleiman Alherbish and General Manager of Noon KSA, Ahmed Abdel Qader Gadouri.

Under this agreement, Saudi artisans will be able to sell craft products and cultural heritage content online, gaining access to a larger audience through Noon's Mahali program.

The program also aims to assist local entrepreneurs and small and medium-sized businesses improve their product quality.

Dr. Alherbish thanked Noon for its cooperation, emphasizing the significant benefits gained through the agreement.

He also made note of the Commission's numerous initiatives to develop the handicraft sector, such as training programs and providing a consumer audience through outlets, exhibitions, events, and festivals.

"Our collaboration with the Heritage Commission demonstrates our ongoing commitment to assisting entrepreneurs and small businesses. The Mahali program helps local talent grow their businesses by providing them with the tools and services they need to reach a larger segment of customers in the region." Gadouri said.

The Noon Mahali program exemplifies the company's founding goal of empowering local talent through the development of a strong e-commerce platform.

The agreement is part of the Heritage Commission's broader efforts to strengthen partnerships with the public and private sectors as part of the Kingdom's cultural sector development.


Saudi Arabia offers global forum a vision of a new urban future

Saudi Arabia offers global forum a vision of a new urban future
Updated 30 June 2022

Saudi Arabia offers global forum a vision of a new urban future

Saudi Arabia offers global forum a vision of a new urban future
  • The Kingdom’s Architecture and Design Commission took part in the recent forum with a display featuring the King Salman Charter for Architecture and Urbanism
  • Among the charter’s aims is the creation of memorable buildings and spaces that integrate cultural and national identity

RIYADH: An exhibition outlining Saudi Arabia’s future urbanization strategy may inspire a new community-focused approach to architecture following its debut at the 11th World Urban Forum in Katowice, Poland.

The Kingdom’s Architecture and Design Commission took part in the recent forum with a display featuring the King Salman Charter for Architecture and Urbanism, launched late last year to help develop the sector as part of Vision 2030.

King Salman’s architectural vision, developed during his five decades as governor of Riyadh region, was highlighted in the exhibition, which also showcased exemplary projects in the Kingdom.

Among the charter’s aims is the creation of memorable buildings and spaces that integrate cultural and national identity, as well as contemporary designs that meet the needs of local communities.

The commission hopes to increase awareness of the charter, and inspire architects and designers worldwide in line with the forum’s theme “Transforming Our Cities for a Better Urban Future.”

A panel discussion on the charter brought together CEO of the Saudi Architecture and Design Commission Sumayah Al-Solaiman, founder of Dabbagh Architects Sumaya Dabbagh, and Arup Group’s director of master planning and urban design Daniel Ringelstein.

Al-Solaiman said: “Our participation at WUF 2022 opens new horizons for applying the charter and presents an excellent opportunity to introduce the international public to its methodology. By showcasing the ways in which the charter has already improved the built environment, we highlighted the range of circumstances in which the charter can be applied to improve quality of life not only in Saudi Arabia, but also further afield.”

This is the exhibition’s first international appearance after touring through five cities in Saudi Arabia: Riyadh, Abha, Jeddah, Dhahran and Madinah.

The World Urban Forum was established in 2001 by the UN to examine the growing global issue of rapid urbanization and its impact on communities, cities, economies and climate change.


First group of Omani pilgrims arrive in Saudi Arabia ahead of Hajj

First group of Omani pilgrims arrive in Saudi Arabia ahead of Hajj
Updated 30 June 2022

First group of Omani pilgrims arrive in Saudi Arabia ahead of Hajj

First group of Omani pilgrims arrive in Saudi Arabia ahead of Hajj
  • The pilgrims’ entry procedures were completed with ease
  • Thursday marks the start of Dhu Al-Hijjah, the month during which Hajj is performed

RIYADH: The first group of Omani pilgrims arrived in the Kingdom through the Empty Quarter port ahead of Hajj, Saudi Press Agency reported on Thursday.

Thursday marks the start of Dhu Al-Hijjah, the month during which Hajj is performed. The first day of Hajj, 8th of Dhu Al-Hijjah, will fall on July 7, and the pilgrimage will end on the 12th day of the month (July 11). Arafat Day falls on the 9th day of Dhu Al-Hijjah (July 8).

The pilgrims’ entry procedures were completed with ease, and the General Directorate of Passports is supporting sites designated to serve pilgrims with modern technical devices and qualified employees so that procedures are completed without delay, SPA said.


Saudi Police arrest 15 Hajj fraudsters

Saudi Police arrest 15 Hajj fraudsters
Updated 30 June 2022

Saudi Police arrest 15 Hajj fraudsters

Saudi Police arrest 15 Hajj fraudsters
  • Illegal online adverts included providing transportation to the holy sites securing sacrifices for pilgrims

RIYADH – Saudi authorities arrested 15 people in two separate operations for offering fraudulent Hajj-related services, state news agency (SPA) reported.

Makkah police arrested seven residents of different nationalities for promoting fake services on social media involving Hajj performed on behalf of others.

The illegal online adverts also included providing transportation to the holy sites and hotels, as well as securing and distributing sacrifices for pilgrims, according to the SPA statement.

In a separate operation, Riyadh police detained seven residents for offering fake transportation services for pilgrims to Makkah. Another resident was detained for running an unlicensed website in Riyadh to promote fraudulent Hajj campaigns.  

The fraudsters were detained and referred to public prosecution.

The Ministry of Hajj and Umrah earlier warned against suspicious sites and social media accounts offering unauthorized Hajj-related services, stressing that the ministry's online platforms are the only official channels to book Hajj campaigns inside the Kingdom.