The recently completed Empire Cinemas at Al Rashed Mall in Al Khobar features 18 theatres.

Bahrain-headquartered Havelock One Interiors is currently engaged in fitting out three cinema houses for Empire Cinemas KSA in Al Ahsa, Madinah and Riyadh, following its successful completion of similar projects for the entertainment specialist in Jizan and Al Khobar.

The cinema chain is adding three more destinations to its Saudi network involving a combined investment of $25 million. The new multiplexes at Othaim Mall – Al Ahsa (eight screens, 714 seats, 2,886 sq m), Al Rashid Mega Mall – Madinah (10 screens, 744 seats, 3,250 sq m) and Othaim Mall Rabwah – Riyadh (10 screens, 1,254 seats, 4,785 sq m) are all conceptualised by Empire’s long-standing design partner, DNA Architects & Planners and being fitted-out by Havelock One Interiors.

Empire Cinemas entered the Saudi market in 2019, with its first venue having been a 10-screen, 728-seat multiplex at Al Rashed Mall in Jizan.

Empire’s first venue in Saudi Arabia at Jizan ... a 10-screen multiplex.

Empire’s first venue in Saudi Arabia at Jizan ... a 10-screen multiplex.

Given Havelock One’s track record as a premium turnkey service provider in the cinemas and indoor entertainment space, Empire had selected the interior contractor to build this first project within 280 days, covering supply, installation and the commissioning of architectural and interior decoration, joinery and mechanical, electrical and plumbing (MEP) works. This was followed by a contract for the recently completed Empire Cinemas at Al Rashid Mall in Al Khobar – a much larger and more complex project featuring 18 theatres, including three auditoria for kids, two Dolby Atmos movie theatres, three VIP and one immersive 4DX cinema, covering a total space of more than 6,200 sq m, according to Havelock One.

Syed Kashif Akhtar, Group Managing Director of Havelock One, expresses delight in having the opportunity to further strengthen the relationship with Empire Cinemas. “In the business of service delivery, nothing is a better testimony of a job well done than repeat business. We are grateful and pleased that our manufacturing in Bahrain and our fit-out teams in Saudi Arabia keep on delivering for prestigious entertainment clients such as Empire Cinemas.”

Since the beginning, architectural and interior design firm DNA has been supporting the cinema operator’s expansion in Saudi Arabia. Its designs are in line with Empire’s ambition to offer the latest technology in a convenient and comfortable setting, while tailoring every cinema’s venue to the specific market and customer preferences.

Due to a corner location, the entrance of the Jizan cinema was extended to the mall’s common area to maximise the visual perception.

Due to a corner location, the entrance of the Jizan cinema was extended to the mall’s common area to maximise the visual perception.

Dany G Daoud, Managing Director of DNA, explains: “For Jizan, due to a corner location, we extended the entrance to the mall’s common area to maximise the visual perception. A sculpted trail consisting of digital screens, dynamic motion light effects and Empire’s prominent self-ticketing kiosks further increased the appeal of the movie theatre for shoppers and mall visitors.

“The design of the Al Khobar multiplex even incorporates a more abstract dimension. The fact that the city is built on the crossroads of different highways, connecting Al Khobar with Dhahran-Jubail and Bahrain-Dammam, has been reflected in a transitional walk. More tangible aspects of the city, like its long corniche and industrial history, have shaped the urban language and an outdoor street atmosphere of the cinema’s interiors.”

This conceptual complexity allowed Havelock One to showcase its ability to translate a strong design vision into reality. The metal department created container structures by corrugating and powder-coating metal sheets; the local fit-out team worked with Saudi graffiti artist Ali Al Zourib to add street credibility. Similarly, the transition from the mall into the centre of the multiplex is expressed by a passage panelled with back-painted glass and illuminated with multi-coloured LED strips that are core to creating a captivating visual experience for the cinemagoers before they have even reached their chosen auditorium, Havelock One explains.

Empire Cinema’s Riyadh venue ... dreamy “dimension”.

Empire Cinema’s Riyadh venue ... dreamy “dimension”.

Of the three upcoming projects, the one in Al Rabwah, Riyadh will offer a shift in dimensions for its guests. The public area facing the concession is a static space, whereas, after crossing the gates, customers get to experience a dramatic transition to another dynamic and dreamy “dimension”, playing with the experience of gravity and space. The cinema’s interiors will create an illusion of heading towards a main focal element, the bridge, while diagonally axing a rectangular void.

“Joining forces with Empire and DNA is always a great, rewarding challenge,” says Nigel Wilson, Division Director of Havelock One KSA. “They have truly understood how to engage and excite a young and entertainment-hungry crowd that is just at the beginning of its evolution.”

He continues: “Over the two previous projects, Empire, DNA and the Havelock One team have become truly accustomed to each other’s way of working. Now, this can be all brought together to provide a blueprint for seamless, integrated and collaborative delivery.”

Based on the project timelines of 240-280 days, the Empire Cinemas in Al Ahsa, Madinah and Riyadh are expected to open in summer 2022.