Cinema growth to boost Saudi Arabia’s entertainment sector

RIYADH: The development of the cinema sector in Saudi Arabia will improve the quality of life for individuals and families, heard on Wednesday on the opening day of the Cinema Build KSA 2020 forum in Riyadh.

The two-day forum is organized by Eyes of Cities in association with the Great Minds Group and supported by the Quality of Life Program as part of the Saudi Vision 2030 Achievement Initiatives.

The Quality of Life Vision Realization Program aims to improve the lifestyles of individuals by developing an ecosystem to support and create new options that stimulate participation in cultural, environmental and sporting activities.

The second edition of the forum will highlight topics related to the construction of cinema projects in the Kingdom while respecting international film standards.

The opening panel discussion focused on laying the foundations for sustainable growth to achieve the cinematic goals of Vision 2030, exploring the foundations needed to achieve the short and long term goals as well as lessons learned from the first film projects completed in the Kingdom.

Speaking to Arab News, John Iozzi, CEO and Managing Director of AMC Cinemas-KSA and a panelist during the keynote discussion said, “We strongly believe in Vision 2030, we think it’s a fantastic look about the future and where the Kingdom is heading. We are proud to be part of the journey and continue to be an interested and highly invested stakeholder in its evolution.

He said: “The future of cinema in the Kingdom is very bright. We have a population that has reacted very well to the beginnings of emerging cinema in the economy and attendance has been very strong.

He said AMC is committed to having 20 theaters by this time next year. “That’s our goal now.”

Another panelist, John Sullivan, Director of Light Cinemas, UK, said: “These are exciting times for Saudi Arabia. The Kingdom will become a major force in cinema and help the region to develop through Arab cinema.

He said Light Cinemas partnered with Next Generation, part of Al-Hokair Group, and formed Movie Cinemas, Saudi Arabia’s first cinema brand.

Commenting on the forum, Quality of Life Program spokeswoman Mazroa Al-Mazroo said that the cinema sector is one of the most promising areas in the Kingdom, both in terms of industry size and its economic, cultural and social impact.

“Since the inauguration of the cinema sector (…) nine licenses have been issued to operate cinemas and 14 cinemas have been opened in Riyadh, Jeddah, Dammam, Khobar and Jizan. This has created hundreds of jobs and enabled millions of citizens and residents to watch the premieres of their favorite films at the same time as the rest of the world,” he said.

He added: “The launch of the cinema sector is a remarkable achievement in our program. The Kingdom reached the top spot in ticket sales in the Middle East last January, where films from 22 countries were screened and rated in the Kingdom. In addition to this, 12 of these films were screened in the Kingdom before the United States.

“Furthermore, the 2020 targets were met in terms of the number of visits, as we exceeded the targeted 3.8 million visits to cinemas in 2019,” he said. “New cinemas are expected to open in Jubail, Taif, Al-Ahsa, Dhahran, Hail and other cities across the Kingdom this year.”

Other forum sessions covered topics such as architectural and technical considerations for building futuristic cinemas.

During the two days of the forum, industry leaders and experts will exchange their opinions and provide solutions to the challenges of delivering projects for many developers.

The first day ended with a closing speech by the conference chairman, Paul Schwarz, technical director of the Dubai Acoustic Research Laboratory.