Gulf set to lead MENA cinema growth with $3.5bn investments

New research says the number of cinema screens is set to jump 38.4% to 1,800 in the MENA region in the next 3-5 years
Gulf set to lead MENA cinema growth with $3.5bn investments
More than $3.54 billion investment in cinema screens across the Gulf is expected to help the region’s cinema industry expand.
By Sam Bridge
Sat 27 Oct 2018 01:08 AM

The number of cinema screens is set to jump 38.4 percent to 1,800 in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region in the next 3-5 years, according to a research by PriceWaterhouseCoopers (PWC).

More than $3.54 billion investment in cinema screens across the Gulf is expected to help the region’s cinema industry expand manifold following Saudi Arabia’s historic decision to open up the sector 35 years after cinemas were banned.

“There are around 1,300 cinema screens in the MENA region and the number is growing,” said Dr Martin Berlin, global deals real estate leader at PWC.

“We expect 500 new cinema screens to be set up in the MENA region and the majority will be in Saudi Arabia," he said.

Although the number of cinema screens in the MENA region remains low, the growth potential, however, remains very high, he added.

“The biggest opportunities will come from the opening of the Saudi market, followed by the opportunity from sophisticated pricing mechanisms where cinema operators offer price differentiations based on particular timings and days – to help increase box office revenues. Additionally, premium screening is another way of optimising revenues,” Berlin noted.

Globally, the number of cinema screens has crossed 150,000, including about 50,000 in China and more than 45,000 in the United States – the world’s two biggest cinema markets.

China is expected to have over 60,000 cinema screens by 2020, making it the world's largest film market, according to the State Administration of Press, Publication, Radio, Film and Television (SAPPRFT).

The PWC research will be released at the inaugural two-day MENA Cinema Forum on October 28-29 which will say the expansion of the region’s cinema screens and the industry’s evolution provides "massive opportunities".

More than 45 speakers will discuss cinema-related issues – challenges and opportunities.

Leila Masinaei, managing director of GM Events, organiser of the MENA Cinema Forum, said: “The 38.4 percent additional cinema screens will help the entertainment market to grow faster as additional capacities will be high enough to meet the growing demand that is expected to come from Saudi Arabian market.

“The recent liberalisation and reform initiatives in Saudi Arabia have opened up a lot of opportunities for industry that will see the biggest boom in the entertainment and cinema industry. Saudi Arabia will soon emerge as the fastest growing market for entertainment.”

Debbie Stanford-Kristiansen, CEO of Novo Cinemas which has 118 screens across UAE and Bahrain, said the company plans to open a "significant number in the coming three years" across the Gulf.

“We are already committed to a number of exciting projects and looking at more growth opportunities in the coming 3-5 years as well. The Middle East cinema market is doing very well, resilient because of the price point, but still very affordable family entertainment even during tough times. However, it all comes down to content, if we have great content then customers will come to watch the movies.”

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