Al-Rashed Empire Cinema Consortium announced plans to open as many as 30 theatres in various cities around Saudi Arabia, after it was granted a licence to operate cinemas in the kingdom by the General Authority for Audiovisual Media on Sunday.
The news comes just months after the kingdom lifted its cinema ban in December following a 35-year ban. Cinemas were first shut down in Saudi Arabia in the 1980s when religious hardliners dubbed them too vulgar and sinful.
The authority approved the issuance of licenses in December to build the sector and boost economic diversity and job creation in new fields. The plan is in line with Saudi’s diversification Vision 2030 and part of a modernisation drive by reformist crown prince Mohammed bin Salman.
In April 2018, it revealed its first theatre with a private screening of the blockbuster Black Panther, converting a Riyadh concert hall in a series of test screenings by US giant AMC, which was granted the first cinema operating licence. Theatres opened to the public in May.
AMC said at the time it will likely open 40 cinemas in 15 cities over the next five years. While the operator is expected to face tough competition from the likes of Dubai-based Vox Cinemas – which opened its first Saudi cinema in May – the kingdom is the Middle East’s last untapped mass market with a particularly young market. The majority of the country’s 30 million people are under the age of 25.
Around 2,500 theatres are expected to open in the country by 2030.