Saudi is a 'great opportunity', says Vox Cinemas CEO

Cameron Mitchell said Majid Al Futtaim Cinemas will continue to grow at a rate of five new cinemas a year

Majid Al Futtaim Cinemas, the owner and operator of the Vox Cinemas brand, has said the development of an entertainment industry in Saudi Arabia, which would include opening of cinemas in the kingdom, represents a significant opportunity for the company.

Image Nation, the Abu Dhabi film and TV production company, revealed this week that it held discussions with officials in Saudi Arabia about building the kingdom’s TV and film industry, following the establishment a General Authority for Entertainment as part of Saudi Arabia’s Vision 2030 plan.

The new authority in Saudi Arabia also triggered an expectation that the kingdom will eventually launch cinemas and entertainment hubs - facilities that are currently banned in the country New malls being built in Saudi Arabia are currently are designed to include cinemas, according to Michael Garin, CEO of Image Nation.

“They’re just not open, [but] it appears that they will,” Garin told Arabian Business.

Cameron Mitchell, CEO of Majid Al Futtaim Cinemas, said the development of cinemas in Saudi Arabia would be a "great opportunity" for the UAE-based company.

“When cinemas do come to Saudi in the future, we’d like to be part of that growth,” Mitchell told Dubai Eye’s Business Breakfast show.

“Majid Al Futtaim is developing a number of malls across Saudi Arabia that would include cinemas in the future once it’s legally permissible. I think it’s a great opportunity.

"I think what we need to be conscious of is I don’t think it will change from where it is today to Dubai. I think there will be a phasing over time where potentially animated films are allowed for families and then there will be a progression over 10 or 15 year period from where they are today to the end goals.”

Mitchell said Majid Al Futtaim Cinemas is opening about five Vox cinemas a year in the region, with many cities still underdeveloped when it comes to silver screen offerings.

“We’re seeing that there’s still a lot of growth because we’re going into markets that are really under-penetrated for cinemas. In some of our markets, you need to drive 30 minutes to get to the nearest cinema, whereas in more saturated markets you’ve got a cinema on every corner of every street,” he said.

“Currently we’re in the UAE, Lebanon and Oman and we’re currently constructing in Mall of Egypt, which will open at the end of this year. We have cinemas coming up next year in Kenya, Bahrain and Kuwait. We have been looking at new cinemas in Pakistan and other markets, so we’re not really confined to the GCC or even MENA; we’re looking at all opportunities that might exist regionally. 

“If you look at Egypt, for example, there are cinemas,  [but with a population of] 90 million people, there are some cities that do not have a cinema at all. We’re focused on ensuring that in our core market, which is MENA, we can ensure that there are big, strong anchors in the relevant cities to ensure that the cinema is available for everyone.”

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