Saudi cinema revenue rose by 2,605 pct since theaters opened: Report

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Annual cinema ticket sales in Saudi Arabia have risen 2,605 percent since the first year that theaters were opened in the country, a report from the Ministry of Culture said.

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Moviegoers spent $54.8 million (206.2 million riyals) at the cinema in 2021, compared to $2 million (7.6 million riyals) in 2018, according to the recent ‘Report on the State of Culture in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia 2021.’

Public movie screenings were traditionally banned in the Kingdom due to pressure from religious conservatives.

The first public film screening in decades was held in April 2018 when Marvel’s Black Panther was shown at a new AMC theater in Riyadh.

It was one of many social reforms brought about under the Vision 2030 plan initiated in 2017.

New cinemas are now popping up across the Kingdom. Eleven new theaters were built between 2020 and 2021, bringing the estimated total to 54, the ministry said.

A number of government initiatives have been introduced in order to encourage the growth of the industry locally.

One example is the Red Sea Film Festival in Jeddah, launched in 2019, which highlights the work of Saudi filmmakers alongside international artists.

The festival also runs programs designed to encourage local talent – namely Cinema al-Hara – which involves masterclasses and outdoor screenings open to the public.

On the fourth anniversary of the cinema ban being lifted, the Saudi Press Agency (SPA) announced that more than 30 million tickets had been sold.

Cinemas also provide jobs for more than 4,400 young Saudis, SPA said.

Saudi Arabia, along with China, is one of the few countries around the world that is seeing positive growth in cinema revenue, as consumers continue to shift away from the theaters towards streaming services.

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