Global giant keen to swoop if Saudi Arabia lifts cinema ban

AMC Entertainment, the world's largest movie theatre chain, says closely monitoring situation in Gulf kingdom
Global giant keen to swoop if Saudi Arabia lifts cinema ban
By Shoshana Kedem
Thu 16 Nov 2017 01:00 PM

The world’s leading entertainment giants have expressed high hopes for the lifting the ban on movie theatres in Saudi Arabia at a conference in the capital, Riyadh.

The world’s largest cinema operator, AMC Entertainment said the pace of the kingdom’s modernisation drive presents huge opportunity for  the entertainment sector, the Saudi Gazette newspaper reported.

In a panel discussion on the kingdom’s cinema ban, Adam Aron from AMC Entertainment, said the world’s largest movie theatre chain would be happy to swoop in if the government lifted the ban:

“Cinema has been banned for more than 35 years but there’s been a lot of talk that that might change. So we’re watching closely. Whether AMC will be a part of that, is partially up to the government but I know that if they would let us in, we would be very enthusiastic to be a part of the fabric of Saudi life,” Aron said in a session at the Misk Global Forum.

He said Saudis love movies, presenting a potential for the entertainment sector and job creation in the kingdom.

“There’s a causeway to Bahrain that’s filled with cars and I believe they’re going to watch movies when they get there.”

Following a decree allowing women to drive, authorities have hinted cinemas would soon be permitted as part of ambitious reforms for a post-oil era that could shake up the austere kingdom's cultural scene.

Fabien Riggall, founder and chief creative officer at Secret Cinema, revealed a number of projects underway in the kingdom in the wake of new reforms.

“The future is looking like perhaps things may change. We don’t know for now but we’re excited about exploring the opportunity.”

Following the conference the Saudi entertainment authority announced a new portal that would fast-track application for event permits.

Signalling the evolving entertainment sector, the Public Investment Fund announced the establishment of a $2.67 billion entertainment investment firm last month in an attempt to shore up the $20 billion spent overseas by Saudis on tourist attractions and entertainment abroad.

Plans to reform the domestic events and entertainment sector, and ease restrictions on activities such as women’s sport, are part of the Kingdom’s Vision 2030 economic reforms designed to diversify their revenue streams away from oil dependence with tourism, entertainment and hospitality projects.

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