Nascent theatrical market Saudi Arabia, which saw its first cinemas open back in 2018, is set for a new distribution player to enter the ring after leading MENA distributor Front Row Filmed Entertainment teamed with Saudi exhibition outfit Muvi Cinemas to launch a joint venture.
The new company, Front Row Arabia, will commence operations with Liam Neeson action pic The Marksman, which will roll out in the country on January 21.
The venture will focus on theatrical distribution across the Kingdom encompassing Western, Arabic-language and Japanese anime content.
Headquartered in Riyadh, Muvi currently operates 10 locations across six cities, with 103 screens. It has plans to expand to 610+ screens by 2025.
Front Row requires north of 100 titles a year for release in the Middle East and North Africa, around 45 of which receive theatrical bows.
Prior to the lockdown, Front Row collaborated with Kuwait National Cinema Company to release the Arabic-language blockbuster El Folos in Saudi and the Arabian Gulf, becoming the highest-grossing Arabic film to date.
Front Row is replicating a similar deal it has with exhibitor Kuwait National Cinema Company (KNCC) – that venture controls 86% of the Kuwait theatrical market share.
The deal was negotiated between CEO Gianluca Chakra, President Hisham AlGhanim and COO Nicolas Torloting for Front Row and CEO Sultan Alhokair, COO Adon Quinn and Development Director Majed Bahaffi for Muvi Cinemas.
“We have been monitoring Front Row’s activity for quite a while and their diversity, innovative business model and future plans are very much aligned with our vision which includes distribution of Hollywood, local language content and beyond. We cannot wait to start this venture together and contribute to the expansion of the entertainment sector in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia,” said Sultain Alhokair, Muvi Cinemas’ CEO.
Gianluca Chakra, CEO of Front Row adds: “Saudi Arabia is now a significant addition to the aggressive and meticulous expansion Muvi Cinemas have shown in the Kingdom is, to say the least, impressive. Muvi Cinema have shown great interest in expanding the entertainment sector in Saudi Arabia and have not limited their vision solely to exhibition. Muvi Cinema’s forward thinking is exemplary to the region and we cannot wait to launch our first films together and expand from there. Saudi Arabia is the growing market of the region and we are happy to add another valuable piece to our distribution network through this joint venture with Muvi Cinemas. This will offer our current and future partners the most efficient and complete all-rights distribution set up in the Middle East.”