Vue International, one of the world’s leading exhibitors, is delaying plans to open 30 multiplexes in Saudi Arabia in the wake of the Jamal Khashoggi murder, Deadline has confirmed. Earlier this month, Deadline sources said multiple cinema chains were putting their plans on hold until they had more clarity on the situation.
In an interview with The Guardian, Vue chief Tim Richards said the company he founded has “delayed, but not pulled out. We are like a lot of leading companies around the world; we are watching and share the concerns that others do. This has all happened very quickly. We want to see what happens in the next few weeks and don’t want to make any knee-jerk reactions.”
Richards last year attended the Future Investment Initiative, and shortly afterwards, Deadline broke the news that Vue was interested in making moves in the Kingdom. This is the same summit that kicked off today in Riyadh, but with many former participants from the media and financial worlds scrapping plans to attend.
Richards, Deadline also reported recently, had previously cancelled his appearance at a board meeting for Qiddiya Investment Company, the entertainment park which is a cornerstone of Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman’s Vision 2030 program which seeks to reduce the Kingdom’s dependence on oil. Richards is also not attending the current summit.
Part of the Vision 2030 scheme was to lift a 35-year ban on public cinemas which was announced last December to great fanfare — and excitement in Hollywood given that 70% of the Saudi population is under 30. By 2030, there had been projected to be over 300 cinemas with more than 2,000 screens.
In February, Vue announced it had struck a landmark deal with real estate group Abdulmohsin Al Hokair Holding for 30 cinemas. On Monday, Vue made its largest acquisition to date, agreeing to buy leading German multiplex chain CineStar.
Other exhibitors have yet to make their current positions clear including AMC which was the first to secure an operating license in the market. The exhibitor opened its first auditorium in April and held the first official screening of a movie with Disney/Marvel’s Black Panther. Shortly after that, AMC boss Adam Aron told Deadline the theater was “terrifically successful.”