Middle East box office revenue to crossUS$800million in 2021 as 4th META Cinema Forum – the largest industry event in MEA region – opens


Box office revenue in the Middle East is set to cross US$800 million in 2021, US$1 billion in 2022 and US$1.3 billion in 2024, recovering from US$250 million in 2020 – marking the fastest recovery in the world, according to research by Omdia presented at the 4th META Cinema Forum – the largest cinema convention in the Middle East and Africa that got underway today at Atlantis the Palm in Dubai.

This is in sharp contrast to the recovery of the cinema industry in rest of the world. Globally, the combined revenues in the box office industry plummeted by 64.7 percent to roughly $15 billion last year, from $42.5 billion in 2019.

Box office revenue in the GCC, Jordan and Lebanon is expected to exceed US$1.3 billion by 2024, growing from US600 million in 2019, according to Omdia research.

More than 500 industry delegates, experts and participants will discuss and debate the opportunities and challenges faced by the industry stakeholders, at the META Cinema Forum. The three-day mega film industry conference takes place just a few weeks into Dubai Expo 2020 – the largest event in the Middle East and Africa region and will address key issues and highlight the development of the film industry.

The Middle East and Africa region has one of the fastest growing entertainment industries in the world and governments are investing heavily to diversify economies and reduce dependency on a single economic sector.

The event brings all the stakeholders on a single platform to brainstorm the recovery of the industry and identify opportunities going forward. It will host seminars, awards, premieres of new movies, workshops and masterclasses, as well as showcasing new products and exclusive slate content presentations.

Leila Masinaei, Managing Partner, Great Mind Events Management, said, “The cinema industry in the Middle East and Africa has shown remarkable resilience with the fastest recovery from COVID-19 pandemic – compared to the rest of the world. This reflects the inherent strength of the industry.

“People in the Middle East, especially the young generation, will continue to watch movies in cinema halls – that will primarily drive the growth of the industry, unlike the Western countries where OTT and content streaming channels are encouraging consumers to watch movies at homes.

“The growth of the cinema industry in the Middle East will also be driven by the economic diversification plan of the GCC governments, especially Saudi Arabia, to reduce dependence on oil. Cinema, entertainment and leisure sector will push the growth of the sector in the next few years.”

GCC countries, Jordan and Lebanon, will see the addition of roughly 1,000 cinema screens over the next three years, taking the total number of screens from 2,100 in 2021 to 3,100 by the end of 2024, data shows. Nearly half of the 3,100 cinema screens are expected to be in Saudi Arabia – the biggest growth market for the cinema industry, delegates and participants at the META Cinema Forum learnt.

Data shows that Saudi Arabia will fuel the growth of the cinema industry in the Middle East and Africa region and that’s where most of the opportunities are going to come from.

More than 35,517 or 17 percent of the 203,778 cinema screens worldwide were shut down due to COVID-19 lockdown at the beginning of 2020. The global cinema industry is poised to record US$42 billion loss in box office revenue between 2020 and 2022 due to COVID-19 pandemic, Omdia research shows.

However, only 261 or 8 percent of the 3,099 screens in the Middle East and Africa were closed due to pandemic, data shows. Currently 168,261 cinema halls are open while the rest 35,517 are yet to re-open.

Mohamed Al Hashemi, Country Head of Majid Al Futtaim Leisure, Entertainment, Cinemas, and Lifestyle in Saudi Arabia, said, “For most businesses, the last 18 months has been a continuous juggling act as we navigate through unchartered waters of the pandemic.

“Despite the disruption caused by the pandemic, cinema operators across the region have demonstrated resilience and the capacity to adapt, which has positively impacted on the pace of recovery. As consumer habits continue to change, our industry needs to re-invent itself and continue driving movie lovers towards the magical experience of the big screen.

“The region is becoming an increasingly important market to the global box office, particularly Saudi Arabia and VOX Cinemas is looking to the future with confidence as we accelerate our pace of growth and continue to redefine the cinematic experience.”

With liberalisation in society and economy, and increased mobility of people, most countries see entertainment as a major economic sector. Hence, the industry is looking towards an exciting time full of opportunities in the cinema industry. One of the focus markets for the development of the cinema industry is Saudi Arabia and the other GCC countries.

This reflects a shift in the global cinema industry landscape where growth has traditionally been driven by the countries outside of the MENA region. However, expansion throughout the Arab world and Middle East, specifically in Saudi Arabia, has unlocked a lucrative economic opportunity and Saudi Arabia has now become a major contributor to the growth of the global cinema industry.

To celebrate the recovery of the cinema industry post-pandemic, many-post event receptions and parties will allow stakeholders to enjoy fun-filled casual networking sessions. The forum has the continued participation and support of VOX Cinemas, the region’s largest cinema exhibitor.

META Cinema Forum, the largest industry convention, will focus on the challenges faced by the cinema industry, changing trends as well as focusing on the new cinema projects that will drive the growth of the industry.

Looking back on the 4-year partnership with GM Events and the META Cinema Forum, Farrat Technical Director Ryan Arbabi comments:“Farrat has been a strategic partner and active participant in all previous editions of the Cinema Forum, not just in promoting technical thought-leadership on cinema acoustic design, but also actively sharing our insight and experience gained from working on over 80 percent of the multiplex cinema projects that have been constructed in the region in the last few years.

“We look forward to returning again this year for the 4th edition, which promises to be bigger and better than ever”.

META Cinema Forum is backed by all the leading industry players. The event is supported by Pan-African Film Consortium while VOX Cinemas is once again Strategic Partner. Other leading exhibitors including MUVI Cinemas, Cinepolis Gulf, Novo Cinema, Cinemarine, StarzPlay, FimHouse Cinemas, Cinepax, ROXY Cinemas, Carnival Cinemas, Empire Cinemas and Women in Exhibition have also come on board as Cinema and Event Partners.

Among the movies that will be premiered at the META Cinema Forum, isGhost Busters– two weeks ahead of the release in the US!

There will also be a special screening of the timely movie – My Childhood, My Country – 20 Years in Afghanistan, which will be shown in the region for the first time.VOX Cinemas will then be showcasing the film at select cinemas. This title is doing rounds in major film festivals and has already won several accolades and recognitions. The proceeds from the film ticket sales will be going back to support those in need in Afghanistan during this difficult time there.

In addition to these, African films Room 5, Tutu, Aloevera and Akorkoliwill bring the best of the African films to audiences.


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