AMC Entertainment, a subsidiary of Wanda Group, will open the first commercial cinema to operate in Saudi Arabia in 35 years on 18 April in Riyadh.
The Saudi government announced that it would end the ban last year and last week the Ministry of Culture and Information awarded the first new cinema operating licence to a subsidiary of the Public Investment Fund (PIF) of Saudi Arabia. AMC Entertainment signed an agreement with the fund in December 2017 to open and operate the cinemas.
“The granting of the first license marks the opening of very significant opportunities for exhibitors. The Saudi market is very large, with the majority of the population under the age of 30 and eager to watch their favourite films here at home,” said Dr Awwad Alawwad, minister of culture and information.
“The aim of Saudi Vision 2030 is to improve the quality of life for Saudi families by providing an array of entertainment opportunities. The restoration of cinemas will also help boost the local economy by increasing household spending on entertainment while supporting job creation in the Kingdom.”
AMC expects to open 30-40 cinemas in approximately 15 cities in Saudi Arabia over the next five years. It hopes to have a total of 50-100 cinemas in around 25 Saudi Arabian cities by 2030.
Welcoming cinemas is expected to be worth an estimated $24bn to Saudi Arabia’s economy and create as many as 30,000 jobs. Some shopping malls under construction have already set aside space for future cinemas.
The change is the latest relaxation of strict rules around public entertainment in the conservative kingdom. In April last year Deputy Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman announced that Saudi Arabia will build a 334 sq km Entertainment City just outside Riyadh.
Six Flags Entertainment signed a deal with PIF earlier this week to develop, design and license a Six Flags-branded theme park for the entertainment and leisure destination. It is expected to open in 2022.
Image: c. AMC Entertainment.