Interview with Mohamed Al Hashemi, Country Head of Majid Al Futtaim’s VOX Cinemas.
How was VOX Cinemas affected by the COVID-19 pandemic?
Every sector across the world has been significantly impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic and, the cinema industry has been amongst the hardest hit due to months of closures followed by a lack of new content. However, at VOX Cinemas we have remained fundamentally confident about the future and resilience of the cinema industry and firmly believe that it is set for a major comeback. Now more than ever, audiences are keen to enjoy the collective and exhilarating experience of watching a movie on the big screen and, we have witnessed a significant increase in admissions across the Kingdom following the release of Tenet, which marked the first big-budget theatrical release since March.
Since reopening in June, we have celebrated surpassing 100 screens with the opening of VOX Cinemas in Sahara Mall, launched the first-ever cinema in Tabuk and we are also the only cinema in Saudi Arabia operating for 24 hours across four multiplexes in Riyadh and Jeddah. As a result of our agility, diligence and commitment towards realising the goals of Vision 2030, we have more than doubled our screen count in less than a year and we look forward to creating more great moments every day for audiences across the Kingdom with must-see movies and upcoming openings in Hail and Jeddah.
What are the precautionary measures taken across Majid Al Futtaim’s leisure, entertainment and cinema experiences?
Guests can rest assured that we are exceeding recommended guidelines to ensure that they can have an exceptional experience with added peace of mind. We spent the time during the temporary closures, relentlessly planning and preparing for reopening and put in place an all-encompassing sanitisation and physical distancing plan to ensure a comfortable experience for guests and employees. Majid Al Futtaim also conducted extensive guest research to identify the top safety measures that would make guests feel most comfortable about returning to our venues and used this intel to proactively reimagine the guest journey across all of Majid Al Futtaim’s experiences including VOX Cinemas, Magic Planet, Yalla! Bowling and Little Explorers.
Guests at VOX Cinemas can now enjoy a a completely queue-less and contactless experience by advance booking tickets and F&B on the VOX website or app. To ensure physical distancing is observed, we have also introduced safe distancing ambassadors and instructional signage. We’ve also reduced the capacity in the auditoriums to 50%.
We are also conducting enhanced cleaning and sterilisation across the whole premises, paying particular attention to common touchpoints such as counters, point of sale and payment terminals. We’re also deep cleaning auditoriums between each session and conducting enhanced disinfection at the end of every day, which includes the use of fogging machines.
These are just some of the new measures we have implemented to ensure movie lovers can enjoy the magic of movies with added comfort and peace of mind and I’m proud to say that we’ve received overwhelmingly positive feedback from our guests who feel confident about returning to VOX Cinemas given the extensive and innovative new measures in place.
What can cinemagoers expect from VOX Cinemas during the recovery period?
At Majid Al Futtaim, we are committed to providing world-class entertainment experiences and our guests know that they can expect state-of-the-art cinemas with best-in-class technology and innovative F&B concepts. Guests can also now look forward to an impressive line-up of must-see movies suitable for all the family including Tenet, one of the most anticipated movies of the year, Disney’s Mulan, a live-action adaption of Disney’ classic animated film and The New Mutants, a superhero thriller catering to comic book fans. We’ve also introduced the Family and Friends Private Cinema, which gives movie lovers the opportunity to hire the luxurious GOLD auditorium and watch the latest blockbusters on the big screen surrounded only by their friends and family.
This is just a flavour of what we have on offer and movie lovers can enjoy a safe and exhilarating out-of- home entertainment experience at VOX Cinemas.
Given the company’s leading position in the film industry in the region, what are some of the misconceptions about new films and release dates?
There has been a lot of speculation and delays with release dates but, I would like to assure cinemagoers that we have an exciting slate of new releases at VOX Cinemas and there is a backlog of must-see movies about the light up our screens including The Croods: A New Age, a computer animated adventure comedy from DreamWorks, Death on the Nile, a film adaptation of the Agatha Christie novel and Wonder Woman 1984, a sequel to the hugely popular superhero film. Over the coming months, guests are sure to be mesmerised and exhilarated by the unrivalled experience that watching a movie on the big screen provides. Cinema has survived for over a century and and we are confident that the industry will bounce back as people are keen to enjoy the collective experience of watching a movie on the big screen with their family and friends in a safe out-of-home environment.