After over three decades, cinemas are returning to Saudi Arabia. Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman’s latest social reform brings great excitement to many whom, until now, had to leave the country to catch the latest Hollywood blockbuster or Bollywood epic.
The announcement comes shortly after the conclusion of the 14th Dubai International Film Festival, timely considering Dubai is the region’s film and media capital. In 2012, Prince Abdulaziz bin Ayyaf, the mayor of Riyadh, revealed to The National newspaper that around 230,000 tourists visited the UAE from Saudi just to attend the cinema.
With the first cinemas due to open in March 2018, the Government is expecting to build over 300 cinemas – with over 2,000 screens – by 2030.
“Opening cinemas will act as a catalyst for economic growth and diversification,” said Minister of Culture and Information Awwad bin Saleh Alawwad. “By developing the broader cultural sector we will create new employment and training opportunities, as well as enriching the Kingdom’s entertainment options.”
A recent study by Kantar Insights showed that 80 percent of KSA residents were in favour of the change, with 67 percent intending to visit the cinemas. The progressive move has been hailed by the country’s youthful population and keeps the Kingdom in sight of the ambitious Vision 2030 plan.
Stephen Hillebrand, CEO Kantar Insights, MENAP said, “There are few markets in the world at the moment as dynamic and fast moving as KSA. The speed of change is unprecedented, and the compound effect of the changes makes for a fascinating time in assessing the impact on both citizen beliefs and consumer behaviors.”
The announcement is also likely to excite brands and advertisers, as it will open up huge new opportunities for consumer and engagement and participation. While there may be some resistance to the plans, it is expected that the new cinemas will encourage visitors to the Malls where they will be situated, increasing customer flow around shops as well providing brand communication potential.
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