Dubai’s VOX Cinemas planning up to 300 screens in Saudi by 2021

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VOX Cinemas, a unit of Dubai-based mall operator Majid Al Futtaim, is planning to open 300 cinemas in Saudi Arabia within the next five years, the company’s chief executive officer told Zawya on Tuesday.

Founded in 1992, Majid Al Futtaim owns and operates 22 shopping malls, 12 hotels and three mixed-use communities across 15 markets in the Middle East and North Africa, with its portfolio including Dubai’s Mall of the Emirates and Cairo’s Mall of Egypt.

“We have around 300 screens (in the Middle East region) at the moment, without Saudi we will at least reach 600 by 2020. With Saudi, we expect by 2021, we could be in the 1,000-screen range,” VOX Cinemas’ CEO Cameron Mitchell told Zawya in an interview on the sidelines of the Retail Leaders Circle conference in Dubai, an event organised by the Dubai Chamber of Commerce of Commerce and Industry.
“We anticipate at least 300 screens in three to five years in Saudi Arabia,” he added.

Saudi Arabia late last year announced plans to lift a 35-year-old ban on cinemas. The move was part of a wider social and economic reform initiative adopted by the kingdom’s government to help boost tourism and attract more foreign investment.
The kingdom screened its first feature-length animated children’s film in January, Reuters reported. The movie was screened at a government cultural hall in the city of Jeddah.

Mitchell said that his company has not yet launched any movie theatres in Saudi Arabia because it is still waiting for the legislation governing the sector to be finalised. Earlier this month, Saudi Arabia’s Ministry of Culture and Information approved the licensing regulations for cinema activities across the kingdom.

“We expect the legislation should come out within the next sort of three to four weeks,” Mitchell said.

“As soon as that happens, we will make an announcement that [will] sort of cover all our plans for the kingdom but we are organising ourselves to be ready to move quickly as soon as the announcement is made and the legislation is confirmed,” he added.

Mitchell said Majid Al Futtaim is currently working on building a 10,000 square metre entertainment facility in Saudi Arabia.

The company in 2016 announced plans to invest 14 billion riyals ($3.7 billion) in building two malls in the Saudi Arabian capital of Riyadh, including the kingdom’s first indoor ski slope, according to a report by The National newspaper.

VOX Cinemas isn’t the only operator moving into the kingdom. Reuters reported in December that Saudi Arabia’s main sovereign wealth fund had signed a deal with AMC Entertainment Holdings, the United States-based firm which owns the Odeon brand and is one of the largest movie exhibition companies in the world with about 1,000 theatres and 11,000 screens across the globe.

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