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The Silverscreen Dream

The Silverscreen Dream

With more and more people choosing a night at the movies to forget about the economic crisis, cinemas are experiencing a boom. TRENDS’s Atique Naqvi bags a seat in the front row to get the full picture.

May 31, 2011 2:52 by

Do movies provide a great escape from the challenges posed by everyday life? Yes, more so, when almost everybody is touched by the global economic crisis in some way or the other. The growth experienced by the cinema theaters in the GCC in the past few years shows that the people in the region have been frequently rushing to cinemas in order to be part of the celluloid dream world, which in turn has cathartic effects.
Despite the turmoil and lingering economic doldrums, movie-theater firm Grand Cinemas Group, partly owned by Gulf Film, is forging ahead with expansion plans, said founder Ahmad Golchin.

“We plan to take the number of screens to 212 by the end of 2011,” Golchin told TRENDS.

Grand Cinemas as a brand has more than 19 multiplexes throughout the Middle East, including the UAE, Jordan, Syria and Lebanon, housing about 165 screens. Grand Cinemas’ Lebanese partner Salim Ramia independently owns the Lebanese operations. The firm is planning to expand into Iran, which will be owned by Golchin. Elsewhere in the region, Ramia and Golchin work in partnership.

Grand Cinemas’ 21-screen multiplex in Dubai’s Ibn Battuta Mall is the company’s largest and it hopes to take this size to new countries.

“Our multiplex in Tehran in the near future would be much bigger than our Ibn Battuta operations,” said Goldchin. Grand Cinemas is in discussion with Iranian officials to finalize the location of the multiplex, he added, without giving further details.

However, the entry of Reel Cinemas in the UAE, which is managed by Dubai-based property developer Emaar and Singapore-based Cathay Organization Holdings, has taken some of the market share away from Grand Cinemas and the other cinema theater firm Cinestar Cinemas, which is owned by UAE family group Majid Al-Futtaim.
“Yes, it has affected us, but it all depends on the location of cinemas,’’ said Golchin. ‘‘As a distributor it is good for our business to have more theaters, but as exhibitors we face the challenge of improving services to attract more people to our cinemas as there is more competition,” said Golchin.

Reel Cinemas, which features in the Dubai Mall and Marina Mall, is evaluating potential expansion opportunities in the GCC in line with the growth strategies of Emaar, according to the general manager of Reel Cinemas in Dubai, Gordon Kirk.

“After its launch in August 2009, Reel Cinemas has recorded robust growth in 2010, having clinched nearly 20 percent of the market share,” Kirk said, without giving more details. Grand Cinemas and Cinestar Cinemas declined to give their market shares.

When it comes to movies, Hollywood takes the cake. According to Reel Cinemas, 92 percent of film business comes from Hollywood films, while seven percent comes from Bollywood and the remaining one percent is from other regions. But for Grand Cinemas, the figure is quite different. “Sixty-five percent of our business comes from Hollywood and the remaining 35 percent comes from Bollywood and other movies, including Arabic and South Indian films,” said Golchin.

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