UAE cinema sales set to slump by 80% in Ramadan

Lack of new releases means film fans will have to wait until Eid for any new screenings

UAE cinema operators can expect box office revenues to slump by nearly 80 percent during Ramadan as attendances drop and film distributors shelf new releases until after the holy month, figures from 2012 have shown.

Figures from Italia Films in Dubai reveal that last year UAE cinema ticket sales slumped 78 percent month-on-month during the four weeks of the holy month. Total box office earnings fell to AED11,040,176.50 ($3,005,765) during Ramadan, compared to AED51,785,160 ($14,098,873) for the previous four weeks.

“Every year Ramadan is a quiet month,” one movie distributor told Arabian Business. The trend was similar in 2011 and 2012, when attendances and box office earnings slumped by 80 percent and 60 percent respectively during Ramadan.

The main reason behind low attendances is distributors’ reluctance to release movies during the holy month.

“A lot of people during Ramadan are fasting and are not in a position to go to the cinema after an iftar. It’s difficult,” said a spokesperson from Prime Pictures in Dubai, promoters of Cinemacity in the Arabian Centre in Mirdiff.

This is backed up by the fact that as soon as new blockbusters were launched during the Eid weekend to mark the end of Ramadan, attendances and box offices takings skyrocketed back up.

The debut of the long-awaited Batman film ‘Dark Knight Rises’, along with new Disney cartoon ‘The Brave’, the fourth in the ‘Step Up’ dance movie franchise and the Sylvester Stallone action movie ‘The Expendables 2’ brought film fans storming back into cinemas.

The week over Eid, when these new films came out, saw attendance rose 944 percent week-on-week and total box office was up 965 percent over the same week.

A similar trend is expected this year as few new films are set to be released over the next four weeks, but on August 8, the weekend Ramadan ends, the animated sequel ‘Despicable Me 2’, the action movie ‘Red 2’, starring Bruce Willis and Helen Mirren, and the latest instalment of the popular The Smurfs kids movie franchise are set to hit screens.

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