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Fri 12 Aug 2011 10:01 AM

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UAE cinema box office set to slump by 80% in Ramadan

Lack of new releases by major distributors is key cause for slump in tickets, says industry expert

UAE cinema box office set to slump by 80% in Ramadan
The lack of a Harry Potter blockbuster is set to hit UAE cinema revenues in Ramadan. (Getty Images)

UAE cinema owners are expecting box office revenues to slump by up to 80 percent during Ramadan as attendances drop and film producers shelf any new releases until the close of the holy month, Arabian Business has learned.

Figures from Italia Films in Dubai reveal that last year UAE cinema attendance slumped 80 percent during the Holy Month of Ramadan, compared to the month previous. This resulted in total box office earnings for the month slumping 80 percent to AED7.175m ($1.953m).

“Every year Ramadan is a quiet month. It will be pretty much the same, maybe not 80 percent but between 75 and 80 percent. It is nothing strange,” said Samer Debsi, general manager at Prime Pictures in Dubai, promoters of Cinemacity in the Arabian Center in Mirdiff, Dubai.

The trend was the same in 2009 when attendances and box office earnings both slumped 68 percent during the holy month.

Despite blockbusters such as the final Harry Potter movie, Jim Carrey’s ‘Mr Pooper’s Penguins’ and comedies ‘Horrible Bosses’ and Bridesmaids’ opening in the lead up to Ramadan, the major movie distributors have only one new movie scheduled for release during the holy month.

“The main issue is distributors not releasing any movies during Ramadan,” said Debsi. “The second issue is a lot of people during Ramadan are fasting and are not in a position to go to the cinema after an iftar. It’s difficult,” he added.

The next major new releases will not be released in the UAE until September 1, when the ‘Smurfs’ and ‘Captain America’ blockbusters will hit screens and end the Ramadan cinematic drought.

The data shows that attendances recover soon after Ramadan. In 2010, the total box office for the four weeks before Ramadan was AED36m. While it fell to AED7m during Ramadan, it was back up to AED33m in the four weeks after the holy month.

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GM 9 years ago

If such is the case, why dont cinema owners look for promotions like BOGOF to attract crowd and fill their seats. Last weekend i went to watch a movie and complete hall was vacant during evening show. To add insult to injury, AC was running in full!!

Kat 9 years ago

I would go, but I don't like going at night, and I like to be able to eat and drink while watching a movie, hench Ramadan is a no go month for me. Which is a shame cause there's a few movies I wouldn't mind watching - but such is life.

mujtaba Virani 9 years ago

its a month of worship , when muslims detach themselves from entertainment , and immerse themselves in all matters spiritual

Chris 9 years ago

The owners of the theatres have stopped the discount Tuesday offers. Now they are complaining!
Reap as ye shall sow and stop complaining and blaming others!

Colin Occupants 9 years ago

Most of the new films that have been released in the last few weeks have been "straight-to-DVD" movies from 2008/2009, who is going to pay good money to sit and watch movies like that?

It's a pity because it's the ideal time to go to the cinema and be able to watch a movie without being disturbed by people talking on their phones, tapping away on their Blackberries and talking loudly amongst themselves.

MM 9 years ago

Several movies have been released here one day before US as we have movies rolling on thursday while other countries on friday. Get facts right.

Colin Occupants 9 years ago

My facts are right. I'm not saying what you have just claimed is incorrect, but what I have said is also correct. For example, the movie called Surveillance was released in the UAE on Thursday. The actual worldwide release date was July 2008 yet is being fed to UAE consumers as a new movie.