As Saudi Arabia begins issuing licenses for cinemas for the first time in more than three decades, companies are lining up to get in on the potentially multi-billion dollar industry.
The kingdom's sovereign wealth fund has announced a deal with one of the world's largest exhibition companies, AMC, which owns the Odeon brand. The Middle East's leading cinema provider, VOX Cinemas has also thrown its hat into the ring.
“We are committed to developing VOX Cinemas in Saudi Arabia and to make sure that every one of our Saudi customers will have a VOX Cinema close to them where they will be able to experience what they have been experiencing outside Saudi Arabia – in Saudi Arabia," Alain Bejjani, chief executive of VOX’s parent company Majid Al Futtaim, said this week, according to Arab News.
However, AMC already has a leg up in the race to build cinemas throughout the kingdom. The international company announced a deal, which was confirmed by the Saudi government, on Tuesday.
"This announcement is a historic moment for the theatrical exhibition industry and a tremendous opportunity to connect AMC’s movie products with the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia’s more than 30 million citizens, many of whom we know are movie fans based on their regular visits to cinemas in neighboring countries,” AMC CEO Adam Aron said in a statement, according to Saudi media.
On Monday, Saudi Arabia officially began the process of issuing licenses for cinemas.
“As the industry regulator, the General Commission for Audiovisual Media has started the process for licensing cinemas in the Kingdom," Minister of Culture and Information Awwad bin Saleh Alawwad said, making the announcement.
”We expect the first cinemas to open in March 2018," he said.
While some in the kingdom criticized the decision ...
"A nation that builds mosques cannot have people going to movie theaters; there are two opposites that can never meet."
Most Saudis were overly excited by the news
Like, really, really excited
Calling it a historic moment
But beyond providing more entertainment options to Saudis, the cinema industry is expected to create thousands of jobs and add a significant chunk of change to the economy.
With more than 300 cinemas containing more than 2,000 screens planned to be completed by 2030, the Saudi Ministry of Culture estimates that $24 billion will be added to the kingdom's economy. Industry experts have also said as many as 20,000 jobs could be created.