Saudi Arabia on Monday witnessed the opening of its second new cinema in decades by UAE malls and retail group Majid Al Futtaim’s Vox Cinemas unit.
The opening follows a decision last year to lift a nearly 40-year ban on theatres after venues were shut down under pressure from Islamists in the early 1980s.
A gala event was held on April 18 for the opening of the first new cinema by US firm AMC Entertainment Holdings at a converted symphony concert hall in Riyadh.
Minister of culture and information Awad bin Saleh Al Awad and other officials also gathered for the second opening on the first floor of the recently opened Riyadh Park shopping mall.
The cinema features four screens, including the kingdom’s first IMAX screen.
Local media reported that the location is more practical for moviegoers than the first and offers a format audiences in neighbouring Gulf countries have grown used to with surrounding shops and restaurants.
It is also said to be cheaper with tickets starting from SAR50 ($13.30) for IMAX 3D screenings compared to opening rates of SAR75 ($20) at the AMC location.
The opening screening was Marvel action film Avengers Infinity War. General ticket sales will begin in the coming days.
Vox confirmed it had received a licence to operate cinemas last month.
It said in a statement that it would be investing SAR2bn ($533m) in Saudi Arabia to open 600 screens in the next five years.
Other cinemas are planned at Majid Al Futtaim’s Mall of Saudi and City Centre Ishbiliyah, set to open in Riyadh in the coming years.
The company will be the exclusive distributor of 20th Century Fox content to all Saudi cinemas with plans to release The Darkest Minds, The Predator and Alita Battle Angel during 2018.
More broadly, authorities plan to set up around 350 cinemas with over 2,500 screens by 2030, which they hope will attract nearly $1bn in annual ticket sales.