UAE malls group Majid Al Futtaim is looking to become an emerging market leader in the cinema business as it eyes a number of openings this year.
Speaking to Gulf Business, MAF Ventures chief executive Ahmed Ismail said the VOX Cinemas brand would open outlets in Egypt and Qatar in 2016.
But strict laws banning cinemas in the Gulf’s largest market Saudi Arabia were forcing the company to look outside its traditional geographies for further growth.
“With Saudi being off limits for the cinema business we are almost forced to think about next horizon markets that are going to give us significant growth beyond the GCC footprint,” he said.
MAF has sizeable plans in Saudi Arabia including the building of the country’s largest mall, the SAR 14bn ($3.7bn) Mall of Saudi, which is due to be completed by 2022.
However, public cinemas have been illegal in the country since the 1980s when conservative clerics deemed them a corrupting influence, meaning there will be no accompanying VOX Cinemas.
Ismail said the company’s recently opened IMAX cinema as part of its Dhs 1bn Mall of the Emirates expansion was arguably one of the best cinemas in the world due to its unique concept, including VOX Kids cinema screens and luxury dining experience Theatre by celebrity chef Gary Rhodes.
“The IMAX Mall of the Emirates is now one of the top IMAX screens worldwide in terms of box office revenue,” he said. “This unique combination of home grown and imported innovation has created a unique product that has legs to travel.”
He said the company was getting calls to bring the concept to countries it had not considered and would “hopefully” open a cinema in Kenya this year, where it will also open its first Carrefour supermarket in October.
“We feel that we have a legitimate shot at becoming an emerging market leader,” he added.