UK company The Light Cinemas, has been awarded one of only a handful of sought-after cinema operating licences in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia (KSA).
Amid high competition from several major chains, this move by the Saudi government demonstrates the success of The Light as an emerging cinema brand, and one the UK’s fastest growing cinema chains.
Founded by cinema industry and development experts, John Sullivan and Keith Pullinger, The Light currently has ten UK cinemas and plans to open at least five more sites in the next three years. This move sees the company taking a slice of the Saudi pie, predicted to be worth USD $1.3 billion by 2030, after the thirty-five year ban on cinemas in the Kingdom was finally lifted in December of 2017.
With the licensing announcement comes the unveiling of the completely new cinema brand MUVI. Fifteen cinemas are currently in development, with more already planned from 2019 to 2020, spanning a variety of Saudi locations, including Riyadh, Jeddah and Dammam. The Light are working in conjunction with Saudi-based fashion retail giants the Fawaz Alhokair Group (FAHG) to integrate the cinema sites within the Arabian Centres shopping malls, part of FAHG’s retail portfolio. With sites already in design, planning and construction phases, each MUVI cinema will be supported by the extensive global operational expertise of The Big Picture cinema consultancy , of which Sullivan and Pullinger are also the founding partners.
The Arabian Centres malls are already situated in some of the most impressive geographical locations in Saudi Arabia, meaning that MUVI will benefit from this positioning immediately, and in turn, Sullivan predicts, this will aid their dominance of the market. He comments, “As with many emerging cinema markets there will be a flurry of activity as incoming operators develop cinemas in less than excellent locations. However, cinema, like any other consumer driven activity, is driven by location and Arabian Centres malls are easily the strongest centres in KSA – the success of MUVI cinemas is assured”.
MUVI will provide its audiences with a vast range of options for their cinema night out. Luxury VIP packages include fine dining, luxury seating and Uber rides to and from the cinema. Colourful kids’ screens come complete with interactive play areas and special lighting controls. The Screen X experience is designed to immerse the audience in an audio visual three-screen wraparound setting.
Commenting on the announcement, Majed Bahaffi from the Fawaz Alhokair Group said “Today we have made history with The Light Cinemas by launching Saudi Arabia’s first home grown brand, MUVI cinemas and we look forward to many fruitful years ahead working with The Light Cinemas team”
Both Sullivan and Pullinger have built highly respected careers in senior roles in the field and bring with them a combined fifty years plus of expertise to the MUVI development. Sullivan has had extensive international development experience, taking direct property management and development lead roles in establishing cinemas in fifteen diverse Asian, European and Australasian countries. This includes establishing CGV cinemas in South Korea and Warner Village Cinemas in UK and Europe. Pullinger worked with Virgin Cinemas as a Business Development Director and more recently held the position of Property & Development Director for UGC / Cineworld, as well as working with Ymagis Group / CinemaNext
Having been submitted to thorough financial and ‘credibility’-based checks to validate their suitability of heading up a successful development in Saudi, the General Commission for Audiovisual Media (GCAM) have rewarded their expertise and hard work with this coveted prize to The Light Cinemas.
Article by Helen Budge