The government of Saudi Arabia has said it wants to invest $35B in the country’s entertainment sector with a significant chunk of that money set aside for theatrical growth.
The stated investment was unveiled by the General Commission for Audiovisual Media (GCAM), which issues cinema licenses. The aim is to have 2,500 screens opened in the country over the next five years and 300 theaters by 2030, according to officials.
GCAM said that more than 200 construction and exhibition execs from 20 countries will hear more about the plans at the Cinema Build KSA Forum on April 14 and 15 at the Four Seasons hotel in the Saudi capital, Riyadh.
The kingdom announced in 2017 that it would be lifting its ban on cinemas but progress has been slower than anticipated, not least due to the Jamal Khashoggi scandal. That said, public demand is high for tickets at the tens of theaters currently open.
AMC launched the first public cinema in April 2018 and this week at CinemaCon the exhibition giant confirmed plans for further growth in the market. National Association of Cinema Owners chief John Fithian added in Las Vegas that multiple chains are lining up licenses to operate in the country. Vue International, an early champion of the growth potential in the country, has cooled its interest for now, however.
The lure of Saudi Arabia clearly remains strong for many in the exhibition sector. The country recently announced the launch of its first international film festival, which may prove a tougher ticket to sell, at least to international talent.
Saudi General Commission for Audiovisual Media (GCAM) CEO Bader Alzahrani said today, “The cinema sector in Saudi Arabia will see significant growth, especially with GCAM’s continuous efforts to facilitate and promote national and foreign investment to enter the sector.”
“At the same time, GCAM is working toward achieving Quality of Life Program’s goal by opening 45 cinemas by 2020, with emphasis on providing various different entertainment opportunities for everyone, which will enhance and contribute to diversifying the economy,” he stated.