Saudi Arabia’s recent announcement to lift the decades-old ban on cinemas has been welcomed by 80 percent of local residents, according to a new survey.
Research firm Kantar TNS said 67 percent of respondents intend to visit the cinemas once they open, which is expected to be in the first quarter of 2018.
According to the poll, the step was particularly hailed by the youth and many felt a strong emotive connect with the change, in line with the Vision 2030 Progressive society.
The development of the entertainment sector will also create much needed new employment opportunities within the kingdom, and as multiple entertainment options emerge, travel to the UAE and Bahrain is likely to reduce, said Kantar TNS.
Last week, US cinema chain AMC Entertainment said it has signed a deal to build and operate movie theatres in Saudi Arabia.
The deal will see the company form a joint venture with Saudi Arabia's vast Public Investment Fund. No further details of the deal, including its financial conditions, were disclosed.
Stephen Hillebrand, CEO Kantar Insights, MENAP said: “There are few markets in the world at the moment as dynamic and fast moving as Saudi Arabia. The speed of change is unprecedented, and the compound effect of the changes makes for a fascinating time in assessing the impact on both citizen beliefs and consumer behaviours."
He said for marketers, the step will provide a new platform in cinema advertising, giving further exposure to their brands at a mass scale. Television advertising, however, may be negatively impacted, particularly during weekends.
He added that shopping malls will also find new utility value, and those without cinemas will see a decline in footfall as the research showed 90 percent of Saudi residents plan to visit malls with cinemas more often.
Mall operators need to bear in mind that travel time matters, and the majority of movie-intenders expect to travel no more than 30 minutes. They will also need to work hard to fill matinee slots, with demand heavily oriented towards the 7-10 pm slot, he said.
However, along with the opportunities, there are risks for brands who wish to tap into the high levels of emotions surrounding the change. Brands should be careful not to overlook some negative sentiments - 18 percent being concerned by the changes, Hillebrand added.
Kantar TNS also said that the Ministry of Culture and Tourism will have a delicate balance to strike with it choice of content and censorship.
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