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Vox Cinemas Slated for Variety Achievement in Intl. Exhibition Award

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Vox Cinemas, the highest-grossing exhibitor in West Asia, will receive Variety’s inaugural Achievement in Intl. Exhibition Award at the 2022 CinemaCon, which runs April 25-28 at Caesar Palace in Las Vegas.

Vox operates more than 600 screens in eight countries.

Vox is optimistic about its future in such markets as Kuwait and Egypt, with plans to bring cinema to rural areas and provide an affordable experience. Vox Cinemas has already introduced such initiatives as Dubai’s Snow Cinema, a movie theater in an indoor ski resort, sensory-friendly screenings or 24-hour theaters operating across eight cinemas in three Saudi cities: Riyadh, Jeddah and Dammam. It has also hired Michelin-star chef Akira Back to develop a menu for Theatre, its luxury cinema concept.

Vox will focus on diversification next, while also continuing its geographical expansion plan, says Ignace Lahoud, CEO of Majid Al Futtaim Leisure (MAF), Entertainment and Cinemas, which operates Vox.

“In the last two or three years, most of our growth has been focused on building and opening cinemas in Saudi Arabia. We intend to continue expanding there, although probably not at the same pace.”

Several analysts, including PwC, see Saudi as becoming a billion-dollar movie market.

“We have been very innovative in our last several years. Being a part of a bigger ecosystem [MAF] puts customers in the center. We are closely connected to them and we are listening to what they are saying,” Lahoud says.

While the pandemic encouraged Vox to be “more aggressive commercially” as an exhibitor, it also made execs think about the content offered. It plans to produce 25 Arabic movies in the next five years.

Now, Vox is working with small production houses, looking for projects and scripts.

“Arabic film is very relevant in the region and there is a strong demand for it. Last year, in Saudi, we have learned the strength of Arab comedy, for example. If we want to continue driving traffic to our cinemas, we need to provide the kind of content that people like. We see it as a critical component for us as an exhibitor,” says Lahoud.