Dubai’s Majid Al Futtaim in Dh750m Middle East cinema expansion

Shopping mall developer aims to double audience figures by 2016, with investment in Dubai, Abu Dhabi, Sharjah, Qatar, Bahrain and Oman.

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The Dubai-based shopping mall developer Majid Al Futtaim will invest more than Dh750 million expanding its cinema operations in the Middle East and aims to double its audience figures by 2016, the company said on Monday.

Majid Al Futtaim, famous for building an indoor ski slope in Dubai, will invest Dh190m on cinemas in Qatar, Bahrain and Oman, Cameron Mitchell, the chief executive of subsidiary Majid Al Futtaim - Cinemas, told Reuters.

In the UAE, his company will spend Dh275m revamping and expanding its Dubai operations, plus a further Dh290m in neighbouring emirates Abu Dhabi and Sharjah.

“The budget for our Egyptian cinemas is yet to be finalised,” said Mr Mitchell.

Parent firm Majid Al Futtaim, which reported a 10 per cent rise in annual revenue to Dh23 billion in 2013, in January said it would invest $2.3bn in Egypt in the next few years.

At present, the company’s cinema unit has 92 screens at eight locations in the UAE and one in Lebanon, with 80 more screens under construction and a further 78 approved but “pending landlord development works”, said Mr Mitchell.

This would give the company 250 screens by the end of 2017.

“Other developments (are) expected to be finalised in the coming six months to further increase this screen count in the UAE, Qatar, Bahrain, Egypt and Oman,” said Mr Mitchell, adding his firm would operate at least 420 screens across 30 locations by 2020.

He forecast his company would host more than 12 million cinemagoers annually by 2016, up from 5.5 million in 2013.

“Each market is different,” added Mr Mitchell. “In Lebanon our guests appreciate romantic comedies, dramatic films and French and Arabic releases.

“Action is also popular, although not to the extent it is appreciated in the UAE and Oman. Indian releases in the Middle East, be it Bollywood, Malayalam or Tamil are also rapidly gaining in popularity.”

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