Under the non-exclusive pact, unveiled Saturday, the partners will seek opportunities to help Saudi studios and directors release films with cross-border appeal and potentially tap into the Imax global distribution platform to export their films to non-Arabic markets. Imax has successfully implemented this approach in markets such as China and India, where it remasters and distributes local-language blockbusters both in-country and to its wider global network.
The agreement is part of the Saudi culture authority’s efforts to develop a dynamic and sustainable domestic film industry.
“I expect to have 20 to 30 theaters there in three to five years there, which would be our biggest territory in the Middle East,” Imax CEO Rich Gelfond told Variety earlier, on Friday. But he cautioned that “people are talking about the opportunity in Saudi [Arabia], and it’s a great one, but it’s not going to be a China-sized opportunity.”
On April 30, Imax opened its first commercial multiplex theater together with Vox Cinemas in Riyadh, with its debut timed to the release of Marvel’s “Avengers: Infinity War.” Imax has built a substantial footprint in the Middle East with 20 theaters in operation in many of the region’s top-performing screens and 12 more in backlog.
Imax will also explore the establishment of a film-technology lab to train and work with Saudi filmmakers on Imax-format documentaries and Arabic-language films that showcase the kingdom’s geography, culture and heritage, as well as the filmmakers themselves.