Dubai's Majid Al Futtaim plans Middle East cinema expansion

DUBAI, March 17 Mon Mar 17, 2014 3:14am EDT

DUBAI, March 17 (Reuters) - Dubai-based shopping mall developer Majid Al Futtaim will invest over 750 million dirhams ($204 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 190 million dirhams on cinemas in Qatar, Bahrain and Oman, Cameron Mitchell, chief executive of subsidiary Majid Al Futtaim - Cinemas, told Reuters.

In the United Arab Emirates, his company will spend 275 million dirhams revamping and expanding its Dubai operations, plus a further 290 million dirhams in neighbouring emirates Abu Dhabi and Sharjah.

"The budget for our Egyptian cinemas is yet to be finalised," said Mitchell.

Parent firm Majid Al Futtaim, which reported a 10 percent rise in annual revenue to 23 billion dirhams in 2013, in January said it would invest $2.3 billion 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 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 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 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." ($1 = 3.6730 UAE Dirhams) (Reporting by Matt Smith; Editing by Andrew Torchia)

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