As Saudi Arabia officially ended its long-standing ban on cinemas back in 2016, the kingdom announced the USD 35 billion investment on building cinemas, planning to have 2,500 screens in the next five year with 300 cinemas by 2030. The investment was announced by the General Commission for Audiovisual Media, with the investment are mainly to be made in the cities of Riyadh, Jeddah and Dammam. Saudi opened the door for its first theater in Riyadh capital in 2018. SInce then, the demand has been increasing, and the kingdom plans to meet those demands in the near future.
The cinema ban lift has opened doors for investments and revenue streams for the kingdom and the entertainment sector stakeholders. Vox Cinemas plans to invest USD 533 million to open 600 theaters in the next five years. VOX Cinemas gave movie-goers in Jeddah their first-ever cinema theater, located in the city;s Red Sea Mall in January 2019. Last April, Vox Cinemas in collaboration with Prince Alwaleed bin Talal’s Kingdom Holding Company, recently launched the “most luxurious movie theater in the Middle East”,located in Riyadh’s Kingdom Tower with 8 screening halls and CIP services.
While an India-headquartered Carnival Cinemas is also planning to operate an additional 300 screens over the next five years. Carnival envisions to take a good-quality movie-watching experience close to the people in the kingdom. The company’s idea is to move to all the provinces, setting up entertainment centers and making Carnival synonymous with cinema across the country.
Furthermore, AMC Theaters, an American chain owned and operated by Wanda Group, the Al-Rashed Empire Cinema Consortium which aims to build 30 theaters in the kingdom over the next three years as well as Lux Entertainment have also been awarded cinema operating licences. The Light Cinemas, a British independent chain, also announced the plan to join forces with new cinema brand Muvi to launch the “very first all-Saudi Arabian cinema group”, planning to open 15 locations across the kingdom.
These investments are seen to be supporting the Saudi Vision 2030 which noted that culture and entertainment are indispensable to Saudis quality of life. Furthermore, Riyadh, Jeddah and Dammam also aim to become among the top 100 cities in the world for providing quality of life through these projects. All are part of the Quality Life Program to develop and diversify entertainment opportunities to meet the needs of the people and develop Saudi Arabia’s contribution in both arts and culture.
Additionally, the Saudi Arabia government plans to invest SR 50.9 billion for this cultural revolution, while encouraging private investors and foreign partners.for the rest of investments. The industry is thriving in the kingdom and is estimated to generate USD 1.5 billion revenue by 2030. Since it is estimated that more than 4.5 million Saudis travel abroad annually for tourism and entertainment, with around SR 80 billion spending on movies and visits to amusement parks in the neighbouring tourist hubs, such as Dubai and Bahrain.