Thanks primarily to Gulf Film, many locals’ Arabian nights out now include dinner and a deluxe movie experience.
Gulf Film, which has screens in nearly every Middle Eastern country and is slowly building a niche market of luxury cinemas throughout the Persian Gulf, has brought modern amenities like Imax, e-kiosks and online ticketing to this very traditional region.
The Gulf region has seen rapid modernization in the past 25 years, and its cinema scene, which is dominated by Gulf Films, is keeping up.
Its exhibition arm, Novo Cinemas, operates 119 screens throughout the region, but hopes to see that number jump to 200 by the end of next year.
In the UAE, where the company sold 20 million tickets last year, Novo Cinemas opened a complex at Abu Dhabi’s World Trade Centre Mall in May.
The facility boasts both Imax and VIP service, which includes reclining leather seats and an exclusive pre-show lounge. At showtime, food and drinks ordered from ticket-holders’ seats are delivered by a personal butler.
A flagship standalone, Novo Cinema, was unveiled at the Pearl, Doha, Qatar’s outdoor shopping and residential complex, earlier this summer, and the service is also offered in Dubai in Festival City.
Renovations of existing theaters in other locations are in the works. That means more Imax screens plus high-end service and amenities will soon be on offer.
According to Novo CEO Debbie Stanford-Kristiansen, one of the most exciting points of growth for the cinemas is Bahrain, where the country’s first Imax screen will open early next year.
In addition to giving Bahrainis their first multiplex experience, Stanford-Kristiansen expects an influx of Saudis to visit the theater.
Theaters are banned in Saudi Arabia, making nearby Bahrain an easy destination for film tourists.
Previously most people viewed movies in their living rooms thanks to home entertainment, something that is still quite popular.
“Bahrain is a gateway to Saudi Arabia, so we are anticipating a lot of business coming over from their Eastern province, to enjoy the cinema experience,” she says.