As the latest cinema multiplex opened this week in Saudi Arabia, in the port city of Jeddah, the Kingdom’s existing movie theaters are recording impressive attendance figures, with sell-out crowds on most days, official statistics show.
One year after the ban on cinemas in Saud Arabia was lifted, Vox, the Dubai-based exhibition outfit, expanded into the port city of Jeddah, opening a major 12-screen venue in Jeddah’s Red Sea Mall on Monday night. This is Jeddah’s first cinema and the Kingdom’s sixth to be opened in the past year.
According to the General Commission for Audiovisual Media (GCAM), the government body charged with developing and regulating the audiovisual industry for Saudi Arabia, some 77 per cent of moviegoers are families with the rest being singles,the Centre for International Communication (CIC) reported.
As was predicted, the return of cinemas to Saudi Arabia has proven to be a huge success with both families and single moviegoers. In less than a year, combined monthly attendance at the Kingdom’s screens is averaging 59,000 ticket buyers. In addition to Vox, other exhibitors 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 of which 77 per cent are families and the rest singles,” GCAM said.
“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. The multiplex is expected to show some 300 English, Arabic and Indian films annually of various genres.
On behalf of Media Minister and Chairman of the General Commission for Audiovisual Media Turki Al-Shabana, the Chief Executive of the GCAM Badr Al-Zahrani inaugurated the first cinema in Jeddah at the Red Sea Mall, according to the official Saudi Press Agency (SPA).
The event was attended by prominent local and international figures in the film industry and the media.
“People here are always looking for entertainment options,” commented Jeddah resident Ahmed Alhajj, 29.
“We are really happy to see a multiplex opening at this mall, rather than in some isolated location far from our daily lives. Now, you don’t have to really make a plan in advance to watch a movie. One can decide at the spur of the moment while taking a stroll through the mall, which has always been a part of popular culture here.”
Three of the 12 screens at the new venue will be “gold luxury”, providing ultra-luxurious amenities for those opting to pay a premium on tickets. Three more locations will be opened elsewhere in the country in March.
“Movie theaters are a big factor in improving the quality of life for the people of this country,” said Jumana, 32, a mother from Riyadh. “People have limited entertainment options, but that is definitely changing with a lot of concerts and other activities being part of the entertainment mix of late. This is good for all of us, citizens and expats. We need some real, affordable options to spend our leisure time in more productive ways.”
Saudi Arabia has charted a future with some radical breaks from its restrictive past, seeking to diversify its economy away from dependence on government programs and oil revenues. The Kingdom’s new economic model relies on public-private partnerships, privatisation of many government-run companies, entertainment, tourism, entrepreneurship, technology and non-oil exports.
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