BCG to help Saudi Arabia with opening of landmark public cinemas

28 December 2017 3 min. read

The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia has engaged The Boston Consulting Group as it seeks to deploy a new generation of cinemas across the country. In a landmark change, public cinemas are to be allowed in the conservative kingdom for the first time in over 35 years, with the first venues likely to open in March 2018. 

Under a raft of reforms led by 32-year-old Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, the government is easing many of its most regressive social restrictions, which also include a ban on women – something the Crown Prince also plans to live next year. The Saudi economy has been hit hard by a fall in oil prices in recent years, and the regime hopes that it will benefit from the growth in a revived entertainment industry.

Global consulting firm The Boston Consulting Group (BCG) has been commissioned to identify venues like parks and theatres for the Kingdom to develop through a mix of government funding and private sector investment. The project is led by the firm's Riyadh office, which launched in October 2015 and has since grown considerably to rival firms such as McKinsey, Bain and Strategy&.

BCG to help Saudi Arabia with opening of landmark public cinemas

Saudi Arabia has promised a shake-up of the cultural scene with a set of Vision 2030 reforms. By 2030, some 300 cinemas with more than 2,000 screens are expected to open, a government source said, predicting the cinema industry would contribute over $24 billion to the economy and create 30,000 permanent jobs by 2030. Regional cinema chain operators are already believed to be studying entry into Saudi Arabia, which could accelerate the process. Licensing and regulations pertaining to the roll-out will be announced over the coming weeks, meanwhile.

While the Kingdom had some cinemas in the 1970s, the entertainment medium was banned in the early 1980s under pressure from hard-line conservative groups in the region, as Saudi society turned towards a restrictive form of the religion that discouraged public entertainment and many forms of mixing between men and women. The ban on cinemas still stands, presently, however, concerts have already started taking place across the country – something which would also previously have been unthinkable. But well beyond the simple lifting of bans, the Kingdom is set to invest in entertainment. The ambitious leisure project announced to date is a giant entertainment city being planned for outside the capital Riyadh, which would aim to draw regional visitors with resorts, golf courses, car racing tracks and a Six Flags theme park. 

Minister of Culture and Information Awwad bin Saleh Alawwad, said, “Opening cinemas will act as a catalyst for economic growth and diversification. By developing the broader cultural sector we will create new employment and training opportunities, as well as enrich the Kingdom’s entertainment options.”

Last month Saudi Telecom Company, the largest telecom operator in the Middle East, joined the Brightline Initiative, a platform which is co-led by The Boston Consulting Group.