#1206 – Saudi Investment in Entertainment

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You could be forgiven for thinking that May was just one wa-to-wall trade convention month. Over seven different events internationally, all vectoring around the LBE, FEC, and Out-of-Home Entertainment trade. These included the Roller Skate Convention, SEA Expo, FIJMA, Amusement360, SINDEPAT Summit, SNELAC Meeting, and Asia Amusement & Attractions (AAA) Expo, to name a few. The Stinger Report will attempt to capture a snapshot of the trends and developments seen at these events in this two-part coverage.

Saudi Surprise for Amusement

Following on from a whirlwind of trade conventions, and the amusement and attraction trade descended on the capital of the Kingdom for the 5th Saudi Entertainment & Amusement (SEA) Expo at the Riyadh Front Exhibition & Conference Center in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia – going the additional mile to cement the brand and presentation of this Saudi event, especially in the face of possible future competition of rival events in the region.

SEA was also run in partnership with sister event Saudi Light & Sound (SLS) Expo, offering a comprehensive rundown of the latest leisure and entertainment trends shaping the MENA (Middle East and North Africa) region and beyond. A look at the growing “Competitive Socializing” impact to the region, and especially the mini-golf approach, was seen from Jora Vision, who exhibited at the event with their new ‘RemarkaBall’ mini golf concept. Greenspan Projects is the global distributor for Puttify – the new social entertainment golf game, along with their design and master planning for golf attractions internationally. The company has dedicated part of its operation to competitive socializing business, deploying their unique golfing experience for the likes of Boom Battle Bar and others. HOLOVIS came to SEA’24 debuting its ‘360Golf’ concept based on their ‘HoloTrac’ technology. The platform was developed in partnership with Adventure Golf & Sports (AGS).

Meanwhile, also at SEA’24, a new concept called ‘The DockX’ with interactive floor, AR bowling and billiards, amusement, and karaoke with an F&B element, developed by KCC Entertainment Design, was being promoted. Also, Art Attack exhibited and, along with their extensive lasertag work and minigolf, the company was promoting their duck pin bowling platform (‘Alpha Duck Lanes’), offering a social entertainment framework to the company’s work in FEC.

The growth of competitive socializing establishments within the UAE and KSA market sectors was reflected in the news that chain Five Iron Golf had signed a franchise agreement with local entrepreneurs to open their first UAE chain in the Westin Dubai Mina Seyahi Beach Resort and Marina. The Dubai site will comprise some 17 simulator bays, as well as a VIP member only lounge with some table games. This is the latest of the chain’s competitive socializing venues to open in the region and shows the interest in this trend in the sector.

Moving to “Immersive Experiences” and DOF Robotics came to the SEA’24 event with their popular ‘Typhoon VR’ platform, taking attendees for a spin. The company was also promoting their other attraction work, including their ‘Monster Jam: Grave Digger’ VR experience, and new digital theme park concepts such as their ‘Mission Space: Digital Park’ attraction. Simworx announced the development of their stadium moving spectator pods for deployment within sports stadium. Developed in partnership with C360 International, this move to bring a greater attraction style engagement to the sports stadium scene mirrors what has been seen in VIP experiences and visitor attractions added to sports stadiums.

Simworx, fresh from their successful installation of the attraction named ‘Barbie Ultimate Road Trip’, a motion ride simulator based on the popular IP and all part of the Mission: Play! By Mattel, an interactive physical and digital place to play, opened the same month in Dubai. Developed in partnership with the developers IP2 Entertainment and Mattel, the installation is operated at The Galleria Al Maryah, owned by the Al Hokair Group. The ExperienceUK pavilion booth at SEA’24 had representation from several of the leading UK providers and developers, supported by the UK’s Department for Business and Trade and local British Embassy in Riyadh. Meanwhile, exhibitor MovieMax presented a compact interactive shooting experience based within a shipping container.

VR still had a part to play across many booths at the Saudi show. For example, SEA’24 event exhibitor FrontGrid announced their plans for a new immersive flight experience suite, based on their success with their ‘Paradrop’ VR simulation platform. The new experiences will build on the ability to fly within the virtual world developed by the company. We hope to test these new experiences as soon as revealed and will report back.

Mack Ride Gmbh exhibited, promoting their venerable line of theme park attraction developments. The company had recently installed the latest of their investments into VR attractions at their Europa-Park, launching the ‘Phantom of the Opera’ rollercoaster, based on the 1986 Tony Award-winning Andrew Lloyd Webber musical stage property. The six-minute high-speed ride is supported by VR, using PICO headsets to offer an immersive experience racing through the 19th century Paris opera house. This aspect of the attraction was developed by division VRCoaster, with a special Lloyd Webber soundtrack. It was reported that this marks a move by Andrew Lloyd Webber’s operation into further VR experiences. Mack Ride is intending to distribute the ride through theme parks worldwide.

Other VR attractions exhibited included Sub Sea Systems’ VR underwater experiences. VR which offers an Artainment and Edutainment element was represented by local corporation LightArtVR – with their motion and seated VR experiences, such as the world’s first VR ride traversing through the story of Islam. The Chinese VR scene was represented by the likes of Yoto games VR, showing their 360 simulator VR system, and their upright VR shooter using an incorporated gun and visor.

Augmented and Mixed Reality were also represented at the show, with exhibitors such as IQ Reality presenting their innovative ‘IQ Billiards System’ – a projection mapped billiards table, with tracked balls, and offering animated digital games and themes to the table. Meanwhile, immersive interactive tech was also presented by Pixel Games with their active entertainment interactive floor game system. While the active play scene was represented by CSE and their partnership with

HPS Play – showing their range of gamified platforms.

Another aspect of the market was the competitive gaming, eSports, and simulator scene. Exhibitor Teleiods showed its simulators, while WAVE Italy also had representation of their F1 simulator range. Another promoter of their eSports simulation was Brogent Technologies, with their ‘miRide: Racing Simulator’ – the system offers an advanced motion platform. The company saw, during the MENALAC Awards 2024, its premium racing simulator installation at Doha Quest win the Best New Product for FECs 2024 (Ride and Attraction) category.

The importance of the Saudi market can be seen in the growth of the Vision 2030 economic strategy plan. Developed to divest the Kingdom from its dependency on oil revenue, the plan has been promoted at the recent World Economic Forum’s special meeting in Riyadh – and has seen major revisions to include a greater entertainment and leisure component to its deployment. Several flagship projects have been announced that include advanced attraction and entertainment components. These are ambitious projects that will mark the region out for special attention by the international entertainment industry.

To underpin investment and M&A in this region, and the consolidation of development, it was announced a few weeks after SEA’24 that the formidable Qiddiya Investment Company (QIC) and Saudi Entertainment Ventures (Seven) had merged, forming a new entity they hope would be positioned to transform the entertainment sector in Saudi Arabia. This new strategic move was reportedly endorsed by the Public Investment Fund (PIF), and aims to leverage the strengths of both companies, enhancing the nation’s entertainment, leisure, and sports offerings. And, in further news in the region, it was announced that immersive destination creator Miral had signed a long-term partnership with banking group Emirates NBD. This strategic alliance marked one of the largest sponsorship deals in this sector.

The SEA’24 event was expected to attract over 10,000 visitors to the over-300 exhibitors and, from eyewitness reports, the attendance exceeded expectations on previous years – a good milestone to mark the fifth year of the event. The continued co-location with the SLS Expo also played its part. This marks an interesting year for the MENA sector, following DEAL and now SEA, and we await news of a new trade show entrant into this sector as rumors continue to circulate – watch this space.

In Conclusion – The MENA region has seen an incredible infusion of investment towards the development of both conventional theme park and entertainment venues, as well as the new generation of entertainment spaces, while also investing in growing existing brands. It was announced during the event that Chuck E. Cheese had opened its first location in Kuwait – comprising some 80 games, 602 seats, and a state-of-the-art dance floor with the best music and entertainment. Next year’s SEA event is expected to continue to reflect the growth in leisure entertainment in the region, but also the changing landscape, as new developers enter the fray.

Developments in the Immersive Screen Scene

As stated, the Saudi Light & Sound (SLS) Expo took place alongside SEA’24, and developments in the Audio Video landscape were revealed that have major implications for the leisure entertainment sector. It was announced that Panasonic Holdings has decided to exit the high-end projection market and divest its interests, selling off its Panasonic Connect operation for a reported estimated sales price of ¥80b ($510m). The division specializes in projection sales and services to the enterprise sector and has most notably been involved in immersive entertainment and immersive gallery projections. The sale of this division under such circumstances will place several sponsored projects in limbo until the plans of the new owner can be confirmed. At the time of reporting, Japanese investment firm Orix was suggested as a possible suitor.

Panasonic is divesting its high-end projection business to focus on its core profitable divisions, with the company growing a massive war chest towards positioning itself in the consumer electronics sector. The projection division was acquired from Blue Yonder in 2021 for $7b – offering projection system integration and services, as well as software development in support of these high-end platforms. The operation reported having sales in March of $70m. The division is focusing on enterprise clients in public services, infrastructure, supply chains, and entertainment (stadium, broadcast, and events). This entertainment support has also included LBE, Immersive Attractions, and Immersive Experiences projection.

One such partner project has been Panasonic Connect’s official technology partnership with operators Illuminarium and Panasonic Connect Europe’s association with the Ent Inc., on the ‘Chaos Kart’ installation. Along with numerous other installations. Concerning the Illuminarium relationship, it was announced that the Illuminarium at Wynn Palace Cotai, Macau, had selected a different digital projector supplier. In an announcement regarding the opening of this new venue, the CEO of the operation revealed a group comprising Christie, Rockwell Group, Electrosonic, Holoplot, and Legends project management, had been involved in establishing the installation. The Macau venue is installing some 29 Christie ‘Griffyn 4K50-RGB’ pure-laser projectors.

About the author call_made


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The brainchild of two location-based experience enthusiasts, Christine Buhr and Brandon Willey, the LBX Collective aims to inform and educate, create opportunities to connect with industry peers, and to spur collaboration, discourse, and cross-pollination of ideas.

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