An average of 59,000 people are going to cinemas in Saudi Arabia each month since the Gulf kingdom lifted its ban last year, according to official figures.
As the latest cinema multiplex opened this week in Jeddah, the General Commission for Audiovisual Media (GCAM) revealed impressive attendance figures, with sell-out crowds on most days.
Jeddah’s first cinema and the kingdom’s sixth, a 12-screen Vox cinema in Red Sea Mall opened on Monday night.
GCAM, the government body charged with developing and regulating the audiovisual industry for Saudi Arabia, said 77 percent of moviegoers are families with the rest being singles.
In addition to Vox, other operators to enter the Saudi exhibition sector include the US-based AMC and the Saudi concern, Al-Rashed Empire Cinema Consortium.
“About 59,000 people watch movies in these halls each month,” GCAM said, adding: “These halls bring all kinds of Arabic and western blockbusters.”
The newly-opened Vox multiplex in Jeddah has the region’s first cinema dedicated to children.
With 35 locations comprising 345 screens across the MENA region, Vox Cinemas, a division of Dubai-based Majid Al Futtaim Group, is the Middle East’s largest operator.
The opening is part of Saudi Arabia's push for regional and international investment in its entertainment industry as part of a push to overhaul the economy for life after oil.
Turki Al Alshikh, newly appointed chairman of the General Entertainment Authority, said last week that the kingdom will seek to land big theatrical productions like The Phantom of the Opera and The Lion King, as well as regional and international circuses in 2019 and 2020.
The kingdom has loosened the reins on the entertainment industry since Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman assumed his de facto leadership vowing to reform the energy-dominated economy.
Authorities lifted the 30-year ban on cinemas, while cafes are filled with music previously considered immoral in the conservative kingdom. Internationally known performers including Enrique Iglesias and Cirque du Soleil have packed arenas.
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