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Saudi Arabia is a $1 billion box office market

Nearly 2,000 films, including a promising 45 local productions, were screened in the last six years

Saudi Arabia is a $1 billion box office market
[Source photo: Krishna Prasad/Fast Company Middle East]

Lifting the 35-year ban on cinemas in 2018 is one of Saudi Arabia’s most impactful initiatives, unlocking a lucrative economic opportunity. According to government data, Saudi Arabia’s film industry has experienced a meteoric rise in just six years and has become a billion-dollar market. Since opening its first cinemas in 2018, the sector has generated a staggering $986 million in revenue.

This rapid growth is fueled by a surge in moviegoers. The General Authority for Media Regulation reports over 61 million tickets sold between April 2018 and March 2024. This period also saw the screening of nearly 2,000 films, including a promising 45 local productions, highlighting the burgeoning domestic film scene.

Analysts attribute this success to Saudi Arabia’s embrace of cultural diversification, aligning with Vision 2030’s national transformation plan. This initiative aims to expand the economy beyond oil and improve the quality of life for citizens. 

The entertainment sector, including cinema, is a key target. By 2030, it aims to contribute over $23 billion to the GDP and create over 100,000 jobs.

Cinema infrastructure is keeping pace with audience demand. The kingdom now boasts 66 movie theaters spread across 22 cities, with over 600 screens and over 63,000 seats. These facilities are operated by several companies, ensuring widespread accessibility for movie enthusiasts.

Hanaa Al-Omair, president of the Saudi Cinema Association, is optimistic about the future, saying this trend confirms the industry is moving in the right direction.  

The association further nurtures the cinematic culture by launching the first 22 volumes of a Saudi Cinema Encyclopedia. With 100 planned books in the first year, this ambitious project aims to be a comprehensive resource for film lovers in the kingdom.

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