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Saudi’s leading cinema group to make films for Arabs by Arabs

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Muvi Cinemas, which operates 205 screens in the kingdom, will now be showing Muvi Studios releases
  • Muvi Studios to make quality Saudi and Egyptian films 
  • Vision 2030: household entertainment spend up from 2.9% to 6% 
  • PwC estimates cinema box office market worth $950m by 2030

The kingdom of Saudi Arabia announced the lifting of its 35-year ban on cinemas four years ago. The industry has since seen exponential growth and Arabic language films have been the most popular among moviegoers.

This trend has now prompted Muvi Cinemas, Saudi Arabia’s homegrown cinema brand and the country’s largest theatre operator, to launch Muvi Studios. 

The new company will have a major focus on developing both Saudi and Egyptian films with a focus on movies for the big screen.

Adon Quinn, CEO of Muvi Cinemas, told AGBI: “Our audiences are able to watch these movies in their own language, relate to these characters and identify with the film’s subject matter.

‘We have been inspired to develop Saudi and Egyptian film content for the big screen. The investment in Muvi Studios will be used to produce a slate of top-quality Arabic movies and we aim to release a minimum of three films within the next 12 months.”

“We see massive potential in the production of local content in the kingdom. Saudi Arabia is not short of talent in front of or behind the camera and global events such as the Red Sea International Film Festival are putting the kingdom’s cinema  aspirations in the spotlight,” he added.

The festival has thrown its full weight behind Saudi talent, launching a fund to back the production of 26 film projects from Saudi Arabia and supporting 28 talented Saudi film directors, more than half of whom are women. 

“With ongoing support from the Saudi government and increased investment in infrastructure, we expect to see a strong local film industry in the coming years,” said Quinn.

Adon Quinn, CEO, Muvi Cinemas

Homegrown $500 million movie industry

The move by Muvi Cinemas follows the launch by Saudi Film Commission late last year of a new strategy to establish the kingdom as a world-class film hub. A target was set to build an industry with an initial revenue of $500 million, according to CEO Abdullah Al-Qhatani.

The Commission strategy focuses on six areas including ensuring a world-class talent pipeline and ensuring homegrown talent can compete with the best.

 It also aims to create a film sector that can compete in terms of services, offerings and incentives while boosting domestic film production and attracting further international production houses.

Arab cinema has garnered a lot of attention recently and Egypt has contributed to the most of its growth

Muvi Cinemas CEO Adon Quinn

Saudi film veteran Faisal Baltyuor has been appointed chief executive of Muvi Studios. Formerly CEO of the Saudi Film Council, he previously led an initiative with the Ministry of Culture to develop the Saudi film industry before founding the largest specialised Saudi film distribution company CineWaves Film in 2020. He is also a board member of Manga Production and holds several other roles in the Saudi film industry.

Baltyuor said: “I have been collaborating with Muvi Cinemas in various ways since it launched three years ago. Its growth in Saudi Arabia has been extraordinary. It has captured the imagination of the nation with 46 percent box office market share tapping into the pent-up demand for a globally inspired theatre experience complemented by local execution.”

PwC estimates Saudi Arabia’s cinema box office market could be worth $950 million by 2030. With non-admission – F&B, concessions, and advertising –  typically comprising 35 percent of overall revenue, the cinema industry has the potential to generate total revenue of $1.5 billion in 2030. 

Quinn said: “The rise of Saudi Arabia as a major box office player on the global stage has been swift and we believe this growth will continue. I believe with the growth of local and regional content, the box office will continue to expand beyond these expectations with Arabic language content having the potential to be between 35-40 percent of total box office. The market currently has five strong operators, with another two regional operators set to open this year.”

Quinn added that cinema is crucial to Saudi Arabia’s development plan and is at the heart of Vision 2030. 

“Among the goals of Vision 2030 is a drive to attract local investors, international partnerships, and entertainment corporations to boost the average household spend on entertainment from 2.9 percent to 6 percent. Cinema is central to this plan. The numbers are staggering and will have a profound impact on helping the economy successfully diversify.”

With Egyptian cinema often referred to as the “Hollywood of the Mena region” due its long history in storytelling and talented actors and filmmakers that have gained both regional and international attention, Quinn said it was a no-brainer for Muvi Studios to focus on the country.

“Arab cinema has garnered a lot of attention in recent years and Egypt has contributed to the majority of its growth… Our plan for Muvi Studios is to churn out an average of 20 feature films per year, roughly half of which will be Saudi Arabian and the other half from Egypt and possibly other Arab countries, though there is no set quota. Our vision is to make movies from the region for the region.”

Established in 2019, Muvi Cinemas has expanded to 22 locations across the kingdom, operating 205 screens and is currently the biggest cinema operator in the country, both in terms of screen share and box office market share. 

Going forward, Quinn said the company will be focusing on partnerships as a key part of its growth strategy.

“As the only homegrown cinema chain in Saudi Arabia, we have the local knowledge that underpins long successful partnerships. For example, our partnership with Front Row Filmed Entertainment to distribute both international and regional content throughout Saudi Arabia has proved very successful.”

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