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Thu 16 May 2019 02:35 PM

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Imax eyes 'enormous potential' in Saudi Arabia after cinema reform

CEO of Canadian entertainment firm Imax says it sees Saudi Arabia as a 'very strong market'

Imax eyes 'enormous potential' in Saudi Arabia after cinema reform
Imax already has a substantial footprint in the Middle East, with Vox Cinemas operating several successful Imax locations.

Canadian entertainment firm Imax intends to expand its presence in Saudi Arabia, according to CEO Rich Gelfond.

“The market potential in Saudi Arabia is enormous,” said Gelfond at the company’s annual Cannes lunch.

Imax operates two theatres in the country under its licensing arrangement with Dubai-based Vox.

“We think (Saudi Arabia) is going to be a very strong market. We won’t enter ourselves. We will enter with partners,” Gelfond was quoted as saying by Screen International.

He said Imax plans to work in Saudi Arabia with exhibitor partners such as AMC, Vox, Cinepolis and Empire. “We’re pretty much talking to all of them,” added Gelfond.

The second Imax theatre in Saudi Arabia opened in Jeddah in the Red Sea Mall in January and saw almost $1.5 million in business in less than four months.

Imax already has a substantial footprint in the Middle East, with Vox Cinemas operating several successful Imax locations regionally, including Mall of the Emirates (Dubai), City Centre Qurum (Oman), City Centre Bahrain (Bahrain) and City Centre Beirut (Lebanon).

Imax first entered the Middle East in 2000, with the Imax theatre at the Scientific Centre of Kuwait and has more than 30 contracted theatres in the region.

The move to reopen cinemas in Saudi Arabia is part of a modernisation drive by Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, who is seeking to balance unpopular subsidy cuts in an era of low oil prices with more entertainment options.

The reform stems partly from an economic motive to boost domestic spending on entertainment as the kingdom reels from a protracted slump in oil prices.

Saudis currently splurge billions of dollars annually to see movie shows and visit amusement parks in neighbouring tourist hubs like Dubai.

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