Empire Cinemas, the Middle East-based exhibition chain operating in 13 countries, opened their second cinema in the nascent Saudi Arabia market on November 30 — complete with 17 screens, 1,700 seats, and the nation’s largest IMAX screen.
The location also features auditoriums with 270-degree ScreenX that include projections on the side walls, plus auditoriums with 4DX seating that shake, vibrate, and can mimic effects like wind and rain. Located in the Al Rashid Mall in the city of Abha (population approximately 250,000), it follows Empire’s first Saudi location in Jazan (population approximately 125,000).
The country’s 35-year ban on public cinemas was lifted in 2018. The largest economy in the Middle East or North Africa quickly embraced the medium, with some showings selling out within 60 seconds of going on sale. The nation’s movie industry has grown in the second half of 2020, one of the only markets in the world to achieve that feat despite the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.
Empire’s Abha location opening featured an IMAX screening of Warner Bros.’ Tenet, which opened to $1.5 million in Saudi Arabia in August as the country’s biggest opening weekend of the year. (That’s more than double the country’s second-highest opening this year, Bad Boys For Life in February with $578 thousand.)
“We are proud and excited to be part of [Saudi Arabia’s decade-long economic development plan] the 2030 Vision, and plan to expand up to 15 locations within in the next three to four years,” CEO Gino Haddad said in a company press release.