Venues in the UAE, Saudi Arabia, Egypt and Qatar are all welcoming movie goers back, albeit at restricted capacity, with hopes that sites in Kuwait, Bahrain and Oman will follow suit in the next month.Cinemas can survive the streaming service boom that coronavirus has given the likes of Netflix, as audiences finally return to movie theatres to enjoy the big screen experience.
Cameron Mitchell, CEO of Majid Al Futtaim Cinema Entertainment Leisure, revealed tpo sister-publication Arabian Business that occupancy levels in its VOX Cinemas - the biggest exhibition chain in the Middle East operating some 550 screens across the region – is currently around 10–15 percent following a period of closure as part of measures aimed at curbing the spread of Covid-19.Venues in the UAE, Saudi Arabia, Egypt and Qatar are all welcoming movie goers back, albeit at restricted capacity, with hopes that sites in Kuwait, Bahrain and Oman will follow suit in the next month.
Since the onset of the pandemic, however, with curfews and lockdown measures introduced, the popularity of streaming services has increased dramatically.In the space of three months, from April to June, the number of subscribers to the OSN streaming app, jumped by 500 percent.
While the number of people in the UAE logging on to watch their favourite movies and shows on Netflix increased by 26 percent in March at the outset of the country’s national sterilisation programme and nationwide lockdown.But Mitchell told Arabian Business: “Without a question the pandemic has been a boon for the streamers, which is a good thing, because obviously people have been locked up and at home with their families with little to do. There’s been a number of studies that have come out of the US that have shown that the streaming platforms actually help cinema exhibition, because it teaches people to love movies.
As well as services such as the OSN streaming app and Netflix, there are a host of other players in the streaming market, including Amazon Prime Video, Apple TV, StarzPlay, Hulu, Disney Plus, YouTube TV and a myriad of others.
Mitchell believed the level of competition could end up benefiting cinemas.He explained “Whereas previously there were one or two incredibly dominant platforms that were almost monopolising, now there’s five, six or seven of them, each of them has their own content, so you can’t go to one place to watch all content. You can’t afford to have five subscriptions, so it keeps cinemas being that place I can go to and I can watch the newest film on a 20m screen with service, with food, with all those other bells and whistles.