x Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 20 January 2018

UAE's Vox Cinemas to quadruple number of screens

Vox Cinemas is eyeing opportunities both home and abroad as it seeks to quadruple the number of its screens over the next three years.

Vox Cinemas plans to quadruple its number of screens over the next three years.

The UAE-based chain, which is a unit of the Majid Al Futtaim retail conglomerate, opened its sixth location in the UAE yesterday in Fujairah City Centre mall.

By the end of the year, it will add four more, with new cinemas in Beirut and Oman in addition to two in its home market in Dubai and Ras Al Khaimah.

"We have a few opportunities in Qatar that we are pursuing that we will be announcing pretty shortly. Also at the same time [we are also looking at] Egypt and Bahrain," said Cameron Mitchell, the chief executive of Majid Al Futtaim Cinemas.

Qatar, he said, is "under screened" and lacks international grade cinemas. "The cinemas there are quite old whereas we are entering the market with 100 per cent digital, more 3D, bigger screens, more VIP," said Mr Mitchell.

Bahrain probably has enough cinemas at the moment, but the company takes a longer view, he added.

And Egypt holds a lot of potential, both because much of the Arab film content is produced there and Majid Al Futtaim is building a Mall of the Emirates-style shopping centre in Cairo called Mall of Egypt.

"Obviously we like where possible to be in Majid Al Futtiam malls, because Majid Al Futtaim builds phenomenal shopping centres," said Mr Mitchell. "But a lot of other developers also build great shopping centres that we are keen to partner with. We don't have any restrictions as to whom we partner with, but in all cases obviously our intention is to expand profitably."

The company is reviewing several opportunities in the UAE, including in Abu Dhabi, added Mr Mitchell.

"We are looking at all emirates at the moment [but] we need to be careful about cannibalisation. In other markets cinemas have expanded too aggressively and at the end of the growth spurt none of the cinemas are profitable. We need to ensure that we grow sensibly."

Ahmed Ismail, the group chief executive for Majid Al Futtaim Ventures, said the cinema business grew by more than 12 per cent last year.

"That 12 per cent growth was 100 per cent like for like because we haven't opened any new units in 2012. This year we are targeting at least 15 per cent growth for the cinema business," he added.