Saudi Entertainment Ventures plans to open seven cinemas across Saudi Arabia in 2019 as it works towards having 50 open by 2022, according to CEO Bill Ernest.
Launched by Saudi Arabia’s Public Investment Fund in 2017, Saudi Entertainment Ventures was the first entity licensed to operate cinemas in the kingdom.
In April 2018, it launched the first cinema in Saudi Arabia in over 35 years as part of a joint venture with US-based AMC Group.
In an interview with Arabian Business, Ernest said an additional seven cinemas will be opened in various parts of the kingdom in 2019.
“Our goal is to have 50 open by 2022,” he said. “That’s about 450 screens. It is no small undertaking.”
The additional cinemas, Ernest added, will be “spread out” across the country, with an average of nine screens per cinema.
“They will continue to be spread out as we grow the business across the kingdom,” he added. “There is no one particular concentration, but it’s a good broad swathe of product and we’ll just continue to add to that….what we’ve got is a pretty aggressive schedule in terms of [opening] cinemas.”
Ernest added that he believes that young Saudis – a significant portion of which go abroad to watch movies in cinemas – provide the company with a vast customer base for its cinema business.
“They travel abroad to see films today….it’s a very young audience, and I think that families like to be entertained and spend time together to be entertained,” he said. “We’re having really good business there from our one cinema in the King Abdullah Financial District [in Riyadh]. We’re very encouraged and excited about the opportunity.”
Economic, jobs boost
According to data from PwC, the cinema business in Saudi Arabia is projected to directly contribute SAR 1 billion ($266.59 million) to the kingdom’s GDP and create 1,000 direct jobs by 2020.
Established with an initial funding amount of SAR 10 billion ($2.67 billion), Saudi Entertainment Ventures has announced plans to set up 20 entertainment complexes around the kingdom.
The first, an approximately 100,000 sq m facility with a variety of entertainment facilities, will be located in Riyadh.
The PIF expects Saudi Entertainment Ventures' collective projects to serve more than 50 million visitors each year, provide 22,000 direct jobs and contribute SAR 8 billion ($2.13 billion) to the Saudi economy by 2030.