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US$35 movie tickets could become the norm in Saudi Arabia

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Demand at US$20 a ticket was so strong at a theatre in Riyadh run by AMC Entertainment Holdings that chief executive officer Adam Aron is predicting far higher prices by summer.

Los Angeles

IF YOU think US$20 is a lot for a movie, spare a thought for film fans in Saudi Arabia, where ticket prices could reach US$35 including taxes.

Demand at US$20 a ticket was so strong at a theatre in Riyadh run by AMC Entertainment Holdings Inc that chief executive officer Adam Aron was predicting far higher prices by summer, when the company will complete refurbishments that include new seating.

"I'll bet you we are closer to US$30 to US$35," Mr Aron said Monday in Las Vegas at CinemaCon, the industry convention for the National Association of Theatre Owners. He said men and women sat together in Riyadh and that tickets for day two sold out in less than a minute.

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The convention kicked off with a panel on Saudi Arabia's decision to lift a 35-year ban on theatres and the opportunities there. Andrew Cripps, president of international theatrical distribution for 20th Century Fox, flagged concerns about a 25 per cent tax on entertainment, which he described as one of the highest in the region.

He also said that on opening night, some moviegoers in the kingdom were recording what was on screen, in this case, Marvel's Black Panther. "Hopefully that is not a habit," Mr Cripps said. "There are lots of issues to flesh out and discuss but overriding sentiment is that it's a tremendously exciting opportunity."

Ferdinand, Fox's animated tale about a bull, is likely to be the first Fox film to hit Saudi Arabia, Mr Cripps said. Mr Aron said Warner Bros' Rampage, featuring Dwayne Johnson, had cleared censors, and Disney's Avengers: Infinity War is going through that process now. BLOOMBERG