Middle East

Saudi Arabia emerging as largest cinema market in West Asia, four years after cinemas reopened

Saudi Arabia is emerging as the largest and most profitable cinema market in Western Asia over four years after the Kingdom’s ban on cinemas was lifted, with its market volume in revenues projected to amount to $100 million by 2024.

After being awarded this week with the Emerging Market Spotlight award at CinemaCon 2022 in Las Vegas, Saudi Arabia is increasingly being recognised as a major destination for cinema production and box office sales.

According to the Saudi news site, Arab News, which cited data from market tracker Ventures ONSITE, the entire MENA [Middle East and North Africa] region as a whole is set to have box office revenues grow by 4 per cent compound annual rate to $1 billion between 2019 and 2024, while the rest of the world is witnessing a 2.4 per cent decline.

The largest market amongst the emerging MENA cinema market, however, is by far Saudi Arabia. According to the state-run Saudi Press Agency (SPA) this month, since the ban on cinemas in the country was lifted in 2017 and movie screenings were shown in April 2018 after decades, sales have already exceeded 30.8 million tickets.

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The Kingdom’s cinema marker is now predicted to have an annual growth rate of 27.68 per cent and a projected market volume of $100 million by 2024, with the average revenue per user expected to be $50.04. This market in other countries in the region is much slower in comparison, though, with Lebanon’s expected to have an annual growth rate of 7.58 per cent and a projected market volume of $4 million by 2024.

The Saudi success in the box office market even supersedes that of the neighbouring United Arab Emirates (UAE), where cinemas have long been established. As the Variety magazine reported, the Saudi market increased by 95 per cent from $122 million to $238 million last year alone, compared to the UAE’s total of $130 million the same year.

The lifting of the cinema ban was ordered by Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince, Mohammed bin Salman, and was a key part of his Vision 2030 agenda, which aims to reform and restructure the Kingdom economically and socially, especially in diversifying its economy away from oil revenues.

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