Set to soon open its doors to cinemagoers, the arrival of the Grand Al Hamra Cinemas in Kuwait mark a new era for what was once the site of Kuwait’s first cinema. The Grand Cinemas reputation strongly stands with more than 100 screens spread throughout more than 23 multiplexes in the Middle East with ongoing projects of expansion.
A subsidiary of Gulf Films, the region’s leading film distributer, Grand Cinemas sets a new standard for cinemagoers in the Middle East. Jean Ramia, CEO of Grand Cinemas, started his career with Gulf Films, his family’s distribution company. As an entrepreneur, Jean Ramia further expanded his business interests when he established Fluid Productions in 2002, revolutionising the social entertainment scene in Dubai with the patented ‘Peppermint Experience.’
His current focus involves expansion, seeking to double the number of Grand Cinema screens within the Gulf by 2014, with projects currently underway in Qatar’s Pearl Development and Abu Dhabi’s Deerfields Town Square mall. Grand Cinemas is also exploring new and unique movie-going experiences, such as offering the first dine-in theatre in Abu Dhabi.
Before we asked Ramia about what we should expect to see from the new Grand Al Hamra Cinemas, he offers this advice to anyone seeking to enter the film distribution industry: “You have to learn it from scratch, experience it from the floor. You have to mingle with customers, get the feel of working ten hours as a vendor, identify all of the areas where you can improve and where you can deliver a better service. It’s not just parachuting into a desk wearing a suit and giving instructions without knowing their impact.”
Tell us a little bit about the Grand Hamra Cinema in Kuwait?
Grand Hamra is our first entry into the Kuwait market and we’re very proud of it. There are eight regular screens plus one Grand Class which makes a total of 1450 seats. From the moment consumers enter the spacious, stylish main lobby, they would feel the Grand Cinemas difference. The Grand Class is very special; it has a beautifully decorated lobby and seating area, which really allows cinemagoers to enjoy privacy, drinks and food. In addition, there is a ‘Crostini’ coffee shop serving salads and sandwiches. Crostini was first introduced at Grand ABC Dbayeh in Lebanon, and has proved to be extremely popular. All cinemas are equipped with digital projectors from Barco plus cinema six has a 4K projector, which is a first in Kuwait. Cinemagoers will also enjoy the large lobby plus spacious and beautiful restrooms.
Is it significant that this was the site of Kuwait’s very first cinema?
We chose the site very carefully. It’s a prime location, located in a landmark tower – the highest in Kuwait – with an upper class shopping mall.
What does Grand Cinemas offer in the way of a cinema experience?
We are offering cinemagoers the Grand experience: beautifully decorated cinemas with comfortable seats from Figueras – the most expensive seats in the business. The Grand Class seats are luxurious leather ‘Lazyboy’ seats equipped with a buzzer that allows the consumer to call the waiter to order food and refreshments, Grand Class tickets include refreshment and food.
Your whole life seems to have revolved around films, how did you first get interested?
Being in the film business and cinemas was always my hobby. When I was a child I enjoyed going to the cinema more than three or four times a week. In 1980, film distribution started, then the first cinema was built in 1992 in Dubai when I was co-owner of Gulf Film of Dubai with my partner Ahmed Golchin. We pioneered the cinema business in the UAE and created the market, which is now the biggest market for cinemas in the Middle East.
How do you feel the Arabic language film industry is doing right now?
Arabic films are really limited to Egyptian movies. Since the Egyptian revolution these are really not up to the standard they were previously. From time to time we have one or two movies produced each year in the Gulf.
Why do you think people go to the cinema?
In the Gulf area people go more than once to the cinema for lack of other entertainment options available, which is the case in Kuwait plus the hobby became a source of family entertainment all over the Gulf.
Of course I have to ask; what is your favorite film? (Arabic and English)
I do not watch a lot of Arabic movies but my favorite films are the ones starring Adel Imam. With English, it is difficult to choose a favorite; that would depend on whether they are action, thriller, adventure or drama.
And preferred snack when cinema-going?
A mixture of salty and caramel popcorn.
For more information, please visit grandcinemas.com