A mark of the potential for the emerging cinema market in Saudi Arabia was the number of attendees drawn in from more than 30 countries to the inaugural Cinema Build KSA event hosted in Riyadh. Organised by Great Minds Events and supported by the Saudi government’s General Authority for Entertainment, more than 300 potential local partners and attendees drawn from 30 countries headed to the two-day event to learn more about the infrastructure for entertainment being built across the Kingdom.
Current estimates suggest that the entertainment sector as a whole requires SAR 267billion (£54 billion) to build a suitable infrastructure in the country, with expected investments in the entertainment sector to reach SAR 18billion (£3.6billion) annually, according to a 2018 report from Flanders Investment and Trade.
The first movie theatre opened in Riyadh just over a year ago in April 2018 and there are plans in place for about 30 movie theatres to be opened in 15 cities around the kingdom within five years. Vox Cinemas, a subsidiary of the UAE-based Majid Al Futtaim, was awarded the second licence to open cinemas in the kingdom. The company plans to invest SAR 2billion in 600 screens over the next five years.
A clamouring for cinema
An eagerly enthusiastic population is expecting to see 300 cinemas with more than 2,000 screens around the Kingdom by 2030. With a population of more than 32million (the majority of whom are under the age of 30), Saudis spend more than £20billion annually on tourism and entertainment abroad. This makes the argument to allow movie theatres opening in the market compelling, and it is expected to be worth up to $1bn in annual box office sales by 2030. Considering the crucial need to create a platform to gather entertainment, construction and tech experts, the Cinema Build KSA Forum found a willing partnership with its government supporting partner.
Cinema Build KSA Forum took the initiative to lead the local cinema industry, bringing together key stakeholders to discuss latest trends and techniques in the creation of world-class cinemas. The event revealed insight into a wide range of new building solutions and equipment that is being rolled out in future cinemas, multiplexes and malls in various territories, many of which will have relevance to the Saudi market.
A focus on repurposing
Sessions led by 25 prominent international speakers and industry experts discussed the investment opportunities, business collaborations and future partnerships in Saudi as well as cinema competitiveness through design and innovative theming. Given the lack of existing cinema sites in the territory, there was a particular focus on redesign of existing entertainment hubs such as shopping malls to embed cinemas as a key way to allocate complimentary attractions for maximum profitability.
During the event, Sunil Puthan Veettil, managing director of Carnival Cinemas outlined his company’s future expansion plans in Saudi Arabia: “Carnival envisions operating around 300-plus screens over the next five years. Our mission is to bring a high-quality movie experience closer to people in this country. For this, we have made a study of all the provinces and identified suitable locations. Our idea is to set up entertainment centres in these provinces and to make the Carnival name synonymous with the cinema across the country.”
Commenting after the event on organising Cinema Build KSA, Leila Masinaei, managing partner at Great Minds Events said: “The world is witnessing Saudi Arabia’s confident steps toward an unprecedented era of social and economic reforms. The end of the ban on cinema open doors to untrodden grounds for investment and lucrative revenue streams for the Kingdom and entertainment sector stakeholders. We envisioned growth opportunities in the entertainment sector in KSA, hence our eagerness to organise the Cinema Build KSA Forum to represent a global platform and bring key participants together. We are proud to see our vision materialise into reality.”
A roster of strong names
Partnering with Cinema Build KSA was an impressive number of high-profile entities from entertainment, construction and technology, notably VOX, Cinepolis, AMC, Empire, Carnival, Fawaz Alhokair Group, MUVI Cinemas, Jeddah Park, Compass Project Management, TK Architects, and Design Novel Architecture. The Forum is a part of the MENA Cinema Forum series which has an increasingly strong reputation and brand exposure in the region and internationally. It offers an unparalleled experience and the all-important networking opportunities. Next year’s event is already scheduled. Visit https://cinemabuild.com