Leading exhibitor Vue International is to open 30 cinemas in Saudi Arabia after striking a landmark deal with real estate group Abdulmohsin Al Hokair Holding. The move by Vue comes after Saudi recently lifted a decades-long ban on public moviehouses. Deadline first revealed Vue’s interest in the market in November.
Vue will work with Abdulmohsin Al Hokair, which operates a number of shopping malls and hotel resorts in the country. It would dramatically increase the number of sites that Vue operates — currently there are 212 sites in 10 countries.
The lifting of the ban falls under the progressive Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman Al-Saud’s Vision 2030 program which includes vast plans for the media and entertainment space as he moves to diversify the economy and reduce the Kingdom’s dependence on oil. Under the Crown Prince’s aegis, the Future Investment Initiative conference was held in October last year and attended by Vue founder Tim Richards.
Richards told Deadline in November it was a very interesting opportunity. “They have some incredible plans in place and we would very much like to be a part of that going forward,” he said.
This morning, he said, “This is a huge moment in the history of global cinema development for the exhibition industry and we are honored to be partnering with such a well regarded and prestigious operator. We are delighted to have been chosen to lead in the development of world-class cinemas and the big screen experience in Saudi Arabia.”
“We are delighted to be working with Vue International and leading the development of Saudi Arabia’s world-leading cinema industry together,” said Majed Al Hokair, CEO Al Hokair Holding Group.
AMC Entertainment Holdings earlier said it had signed a non-binding Memorandum of Understanding with The Public Investment Fund of Saudi Arabia to “explore a range of commercial opportunities for collaboration that will support the growth of the Kingdom’s entertainment sector.”
Moving quickly, the Kingdom held its first official public screenings in January. While the first multiplexes are still a way off, a makeshift moviehouse was sponsored at the state-run Culture and Arts Society in Jeddah. Sony’s The Emoji Movie and DreamWorks Animation’s Captain Underpants: The First Epic Movie were the first films to be shown.