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IMAX announced the signing of a multi-theatre deal with Vox Cinemas on Tuesday, as the premium screening format plans to expand into Saudi Arabia, now that the country has ended its decades-long cinema ban.
As part of the deal, at least four IMAX screens will be installed at Vox cineplexes in Riyadh and other cineplexes at shopping malls owned by Vox’s parent company, Majid Al Futtaim. Vox is planning to open 600 screens in Saudi Arabia over the next five years, and their first IMAX location has already opened at a four-screen multiplex in Riyadh Park Mall.
Prior to the lifting of the cinema ban back in December, IMAX operated the only public theater screen in Saudi Arabia: a dome theater at the Sultan Bin Abdul Science Center in Khobar that opened in 2005 and was built to screen science documentaries.
At CinemaCon last month, IMAX CEO Rich Gelfond told TheWrap that the company planned to use the public’s familiarity with IMAX from that location to quickly bring in audiences for event releases, as IMAX is already screening “Black Panther” and “Avengers: Infinity War” on their Vox screen.
“Saudi Arabia presents an exciting and sizeable new growth opportunity for IMAX, and today’s agreement with our long-time partners at VOX Cinemas marks an important first step in our efforts to capitalize on this untapped market,” Gelfond said in a statement following the deal’s announcement. “We’ve been closely following the economic and cultural developments in the market and look forward to playing a key role in the growth of the Kingdom’s emerging entertainment sector.”
The deal comes three days after IMAX signed a memorandum of understanding with the Saudi government’s General Culture Authority at the Cannes Film Festival. The GCA and IMAX will work together to help Saudi studios and directors release films with cross-border appeal and eventually tap IMAX’s global distribution platform to export their films to non-Arabic markets.