You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

Kuwaiti Company Is Latest Entrant in Saudi Arabia Theater-Building Derby

Saudi Arabia’s removal of its 35-year-old ban on cinemas is prompting another exhibitor to move in to the last untapped movie market in the Middle East, this time from neighboring Kuwait.

Days after London-based Vue International said they were planning to build up to 30 multiplexes in Saudi Arabia, the Kuwait National Cinema Company (KNCC) and Dubai-based partner Front Row Entertainment announced a three-year plan Thursday for 12 multiplexes of their own in the oil-rich kingdom. The first 27 screens are intended to be up and running by the end of this year.

Leading Kuwaiti developer Tamdeem, which owns KNCC, said in a statement that it is in advanced negotiations with an unnamed Saudi partner on a joint venture whose first three multiplexes would be located in the cities of Jeddah, Dammam, and Riyadh, the Saudi capital. Jeddah was where, last month, “The Emoji Movie” and “Captain Underpants” became the first titles screened in Saudi Arabia – albeit in a makeshift movie theater – since the ban on films was lifted in December.

KNCC is the top exhibitor in Kuwait, which shares a border with Saudi Arabia. Thousands of Saudis have been driving across the border in order to catch new movies on a big screen. Movie theaters were banned in the country in the early 1980s under pressure from Islamists as Saudi society turned more conservative.

After dropping the ban, the Saudi government announced in December that it expected to open more than 300 sites with more than 2,000 screens by 2030, building an industry that would contribute more than 90 billion riyals ($24 billion) to the economy and create 30,000 jobs over that period. The move is part of a drive by Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman to transform Saudi society, which has already paved the way for concerts and the country’s first local Comic Con (pictured).

KNCC chief Hisham Al Ghanim noted in the statement that due to the large number of Saudi’s who have flocked to Kuwait “we have a keen understanding and appreciation of their tastes and habits.”

Although Saudi Arabia’s General Commission for Audiovisual Media is still deciding rules and regulations for reopening cinemas, it’s expected that there will be heavy censorship, with restrictions likely to be along similar lines as in Kuwait, Bahrain and the UAE, meaning that family-friendly films are fine but movies concerning or containing sex, homosexuality and religious issues are not. In many cases, taboo scenes are chopped out.

KNCC and Front Row, which is a prominent Middle East distributor, have a partnership under which they jointly acquire an average of about 100 titles a year, many of which are English-language indie pics such as Mel Gibson-starrer “Blood Father,” Oliver Stone’s “Snowden,”  Natalie Portman-starrer “Jane Got a Gun,” and George Clooney-directed “The Ides of March.” They are also Middle East market leaders for Arabic titles. Front Row chief Gianluca Chakra and KNCC’s Al Ghanim are both at EFM as buyers.

Besides Vue, U.S. exhibitor AMC is also entering Saudi Arabia via an agreement with the kingdom’s Public Investment Fund. Other exhibitors understood to be partnering up with local companies to build multiplexes include Dubai-based VOX Cinemas and Middle East chain Cinemacity.

More Film

  • FICG TV Pitchbox Confirms Fox, Alazraki,

    FICG TV Pitchbox Swells Key Company Attendance

    Fox Networks Group Latin America (FNGLA), Alazraki Films, EndemolShine Boomdog and Fabula have confirmed their attendance at the inaugural FICG TV Pitchbox, the new co-production market of one of Latin America’s biggest film events, Mexico’s Guadalajara International Film Festival (FICG). They join previously announced participants HBO Latin America and Turner Latin America (FNGLA). More attendees, [...]

  • Alamode Acquires Lone Scherfig’s ‘The Kindness

    Alamode Acquires Lone Scherfig’s Berlin Opener ‘The Kindness of Strangers’

    Munich-based Alamode has taken German and Austrian rights to Lone Scherfig’s “The Kindness of Strangers,” ahead of the picture’s opening-night gala screening at the Berlin Film Festival next month. Alamode acquired the rights from London-based HanWay Films, which is handling worldwide sales. Entertainment One is distributing the film in Canada and SF Studios in Scandinavia. [...]

  • Voltage Pictures to Produce Airborne Thriller

    Voltage Pictures to Produce Airborne Thriller 'Blackwing' (EXCLUSIVE)

    Voltage Pictures will produce and fully finance screenwriter David Loughery’s latest thriller “Blackwing,” Variety has learned exclusively. The company will introduce “Blackwing” to buyers at the upcoming European Film Market at the Berlin Film Festival, which opens Feb. 7. Nicolas Chartier and Dominic Rustam are producing, and Jonathan Deckter is executive producing for Voltage Pictures. [...]

  • ‘Metro Exodus’ Opens Up Post-Apocalyptic Russia

    ‘Metro Exodus’ Author On Film, Possible TV Series, Expansive New Game

    Since the launch of the post-apocalyptic survival first-person shooter “Metro 2033” in 2010, the series has kept its action confined to the tunnels running underneath Russia. “Metro Exodus,” due out next month, takes the gameplay to the surface for the first time, going above ground with sprawling levels against a changing backdrop of weather conditions [...]

  • Berlin Film 'The Ground Beneath My

    Berlin Competition Film 'The Ground Beneath My Feet' Sold to Germany's Salzgeber (EXCLUSIVE)

    Salzgeber has acquired the German rights for Berlin Film Festival competition title “The Ground Beneath My Feet” from sales agent Picture Tree International. Variety has been given exclusive access to the film’s trailer. Salzgeber will release the film, directed by Marie Kreutzer, mid-May. Picture Tree describes the movie as a “contemporary female-led drama touching on [...]

  • Donald Glover'Atlanta' TV show premiere, Arrivals,

    Childish Gambino Surprises Beverly Hills Crowd With Reimagined 'Redbone'

    Donald Glover made an unexpected appearance at Film Independent’s “An Evening With…” series on Tuesday, held at the Wallis Annenberg Center for Performing Arts in Beverly Hills and presented by the HFPA. Joining “Black Panther” composer and Childish Gambino collaborator Ludwig Göransson, who was the subject of a Q&A conducted by “The Treatment” host Elvis Mitchell, [...]


    Film News Roundup: Glenn Close Selected for Oscar Wilde Award

    In today’s film news roundup, Glenn Close gets an honor, AFI names its Directing Workshop for Women participants and Teri Polo gets cast in a Christmas drama. CLOSE HONOR Glenn Close will be honored on Feb. 21 by the US-Ireland Alliance at the 14th Annual Oscar Wilde Awards, held at J.J. Abrams’ Bad Robot in [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content