Saudi Arabia officially lifted its long-standing ban on cinemas in 2018. Since then, the movie theater industry has been expanding and growing.
Fully booked screenings, skyrocketing ticket sales and new cinema opening in major cities nearly every month are now the norm. In light of the success, the country's General Commission for Audiovisual Media (GCAM) is calling on investors to expand and build cinemas in small and medium-sized cities.
On Saturday, the organization issued a statement inviting those interested in establishing movie complexes in new areas to contact officials who will facilitate the entire process — from licensing to operations. The request came just days after it was revealed that Saudi cinemas ranked third in the Middle East in terms of ticket sales during the second quarter of 2019.
According to Arab News, seven movie theaters have opened up in three major cities in the kingdom including Jeddah and Riyadh since the ban was lifted. A total of 27 theaters are expected to open in seven more cities by the end of 2019.
Though theaters have become available to people living in the kingdom's largest cities, those residing in secondary areas are still traveling long distances to watch movies. Launching theaters in regions where there's still a need for them will most definitely prove to be a lucrative endeavor for entrepreneurs.
This is the era of cinema in Saudi Arabia
The recent developments in the field are a world away from what used to be the reality in the kingdom. Cinemas were banned in the early 1980s after a number of powerful clerics closed down existing ones across the kingdom. Prior to the 2018 ban lift, thousands of Saudis traveled to neighboring Bahrain for entertainment.
However, that is no longer the case. In fact, the Saudi movie theater industry is alive and thriving. Studies estimate the sector will generate $1.5 billion in revenue by 2030.
The ban lift on cinemas in Saudi Arabia came at a time when its entertainment scene was transforming under the kingdom's General Entertainment Authority (GEA). The government-owned body was established in 2016 and is key part of Saudi Arabia's Vision 2030.
The authority's main goal is to enhance the cultural and entertainment sector within the country. In January 2017, the authority's former chairman Amr al-Madani stated that the ban on cinemas will be lifted in the kingdom. His statement is now a reality that many previously thought was out of reach.