Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 15 December 2019

UAE and Saudi to join top leading markets for global box office revenue by 2030

Number of cinemas in the region is expected to grow by thirty five per cent in the next three years, according to experts at the Mena Cinema Forum in Dubai

Saudis gather at a cinema theatre in Riyadh Park mall after its opening for the general public on April 30, 2018 in the Saudi capital. AFP 
Saudis gather at a cinema theatre in Riyadh Park mall after its opening for the general public on April 30, 2018 in the Saudi capital. AFP 

In the next five years, the Middle East and North Africa (Mena) region will account for five per cent of the global box office revenue, with the UAE and Saudi Arabia set to join the world’s top 10 leading markets by 2030, speakers of the Mena Cinema Forum said on Tuesday, October 22.

The second edition of the forum, which is taking place over three days at the Conrad Dubai, highlights some of the challenges the cinema industry is facing and offers insight on the market’s growth potential in the region.

Cinemas in the digital age

“It is critical that we focus on creating an immersive experience for our audiences. That is what we, as an industry, can offer. We must learn from the mistakes others in the movie industry have made,” Cameron Mitchell, Majid Al Futtaim Cinemas chief executive said.

Mitchell provided Blockbuster as a cautionary example. He said the home movie and videogame rental service, which at its peak had more than 9,000 stores worldwide, had every chance to adapt to the evolving market.

“Blockbuster ignored those chances,” he said, “and today, the brand has mostly retired and has a single store.”

Mitchell noted that many view streaming services, such as Netflix, are expected to be the cinema industry’s main threat. Instead, he says, they should be seen as an opportunity.

epa07932007 A billboard promoting the Netflix production 'El Camino' hangs above the Sunset Strip in Los Angeles, California, USA, 18 October 2019. On 17 October 2019 Netflix reported earnings of 1.47 US dollar per share, compared to analysts estimates of 1.05 US dollar per share. EPA/CHRISTIAN MONTERROSA
Majid Al Futtaim's Cameron Mitchell wants the region's cinema industry to look to Netflix for inspiration. EPA

“Streaming services encourage people to like and appreciate films,” he said. “The popular belief is that the box office industry is dwindling in the face of these new services. But statistics show us otherwise. Since 2010, the industry has grown by thirty per cent worldwide. After all, cinemas offer an immersive experience that home movies do not.”

To keep up with the times, Mitchell said that observing data was integral in understanding the target audience.

“Whether a customer seems more inclined to watch romantic comedies or action movies, it is important that we are the first to know so that we can create tailored campaigns to cater to a wide range of audiences,” he said.

The importance of regional content

Majed Al Suwaidi, managing director of Dubai Studio City, stressed the importance of original, regional content to promote the industry’s growth.

“Content is key. We need to support up-and-coming talent, provide them a platform where they can hone their skill sets and encourage them to create and produce movies.”

Al Suwaidi told The National that Dubai Studio City foresees a strong expansion into the filming industry to address the growing need of content creation. “There is a demand for relatable stories from the region. The idea is to cater to the different demographics of the industry and to provide the right ecosystem for content creators. Whether people want to develop their skills as technicians, producers or filmmakers, our aim is to provide the right platform for them to do so.”

Potential of the industry in the Mena region

The United States and China, which together account for 23 per cent of the global population, are the top powerhouses of global box office revenue.

“The two countries generate about 53 per cent of the total $41 billion (Dh150billion) in box office revenue,” Rajkumar Akella, managing director of Comscore, said. “While Mena is already a major contributor to the industry. We will be witnessing a significant rise in box office revenue generated from the region.”

There are currently an estimated 1,400 cinema screens across the Mena region. According to Akella, this number is expected to grow by thirty five per cent in the next three years.

Saudi Arabia, which recently lifted its 35 year ban on cinemas, is expected to have more than 45 cinemas by 2020.

“The Mena is already a major contributor to global box office revenue,” he said. “By 2030, the UAE and Saudi Arabia are set to be among the top 10 leading markets of the industry. Saudi Arabia alone will generate more than $1.5 billion (Dh5.5billion) in box office revenue.”

Akella noted that the industry will be responsible for creating more than 30,000 new jobs in the kingdom, pumping an estimated SAR90billion (Dh88billion) into the economy.

Updated: October 22, 2019 05:27 PM

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