Two months after Saudi Arabia sensationally announced that it would lift a ban on cinemas that had been in place more than 35 years, another major exhibitor has revealed it is moving into the Kingdom.
On Monday, London-based European operator Vue International said that it had signed a deal with the Abdulmohsin Al Hokair Holding Group, a regional entertainment and leisure conglomerate, for a proposed joint venture that would see “up to 30 world class multiplex cinemas in existing and new developments” built over the next three years.
The move follows an announcement by AMC Theaters in December that it was exploring options in Saudi Arabia, while regional operator Vox said it was hoping to play an “active role” in developments. But Vue’s deal appears to be the first real commitment — and signed agreement — for the construction of new theaters.
“This is a huge moment in the history of global cinema development for the exhibition industry and we are honoured to be partnering with such a well regarded and prestigious operator,” said Vue International’s founder and chief executive Tim Richards.
“Cinema has been an exciting form of out of home entertainment for over 100 years and the opening up of the Kingdom is testament to the industry’s continuing growth and resilience. We are delighted to have been chosen to lead in the development of world-class cinemas and the big screen experience in Saudi Arabia. Our combined experience is world-class and we have some incredible plans in place and are excited about what lies ahead.”
The full details of the joint venture will be agreed between the two parties in the coming weeks. It is expected that the first cinema from the partnership could open as early as 2018.
Vue was founded in 1999. Since 2003, the company has grown from 38 venues in the U.K. to managing 212 sites and 1,902 screens across 10 countries.
When the lifting of the ban was announced, Saudi Arabian authorities revealed plans to have more than 2,000 screens running by 2030, with the “first cinemas to open in March 2018.”