Vue International has signed an exclusive memorandum of understanding with the Abdulmohsin Al Hokair Holding real estate Group to jointly build up to 30 multiplexes in Saudi Arabia.
The expected move into Saudi by the world’s largest exhibitor outside the U.S. comes after the kingdom opened up to moviegoing in December after a 35-year ban for religious reasons, as part of a drive led by Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman to transform Saudi society. It follows a similar agreement to build movie theaters inked recently between U.S. exhibitor AMC Entertainment Holdings and Saudi’s Public Investment Fund.
The Saudi government in December announced that they expected more than 300 movie theatre sites with more than 2,000 screens to open by 2030, building an industry that would contribute more than 90 billion riyals ($24 billion) to the economy and create 30,000 jobs over that period.
“We are delighted to have been chosen to lead in the development of world-class cinemas and the big screen experience in Saudi Arabia,” he added.
The Al Hokair Group owns and operates 3 shopping malls, dozens of videogame entertainment centres and 45 hotels ad resorts including under the Holiday Inn, Novotel, and Radisson franchises.
“We are delighted to be working with Vue International and leading the development of Saudi Arabia’s world-leading cinema industry together,” commented Majed Al Hokair, CEO Al Hokair Holding Group.
The statement pointed out that Vue International has been leading the way among exhibitors making inroads in the region. They were the only exhibitor invited to attend the country’s Future Investment Initiative conference held in Riyadh in October 2017 and have since then been engaged in high level meetings and conversations on building and operating state-of-the-art multiplex cinemas in the region.
The joint venture entails construction of up to 30 multiplexes in existing and new Saudi sites over the next three years.
Full details of the deal are still being hammered out and will be disclosed in coming weeks. But it is expected that the first Saudi VUE multiplex could welcome moviegoers as early as this year.
Besides VUE and AMC, others exhibitors understood to be partnering up with local companies to build multiplexes in Saudi — thus entering the last untapped movie market in the Middle East — include Dubai-based VOX Cinemas and Middle East chain Cinemacity.