Novo Cinemas currently operates 13 locations in the UAE and one in Jordan. Its first property to bear the new look is located at the Abu Dhabi World Trade Centre Mall. Image Credit: Supplied

Dubai: Multiplex operator Grand Cinemas has gone in for a complete change of identity, rebranding itself as ‘Novo Cinemas’. But there is more to the transformation than one limited to the name.

Plans are in place to pitch the multiplex venues as ideal to host corporate events or product launches. Or, it could be utilised to draw in viewers for high-intensity sporting spectacles such as next month’s football World Cup in Brazil. The options over and above screening movies are wide, so to speak.

“Most of the our properties have amazing auditoriums and it’s important we utilise the facilities,” said Debbie Stanford-Kristiansen, CEO of Novo Cinemas. “We have put in a sales team to develop this line, particularly to develop our exposure for corporate events.”

Not that this would mean its core business of being a cinema operator will be diluted. Movie viewing in the UAE continues to put in double-digit annual growth, though this year the pace could drop slightly. But the slack could be picked up by stronger viewer numbers from some of the other Gulf markets.

Novo Cinemas, owned by q.media, is keeping a good eye out for opportunities outside of the UAE; a 10-screen multiplex will open shortly in Qatar, and there will be a 14-screen property in Bahrain (at Muharraq Mall), including the first Imax in the Gulf state, by early next year. “By next year, the intention is to have more than 200 screens and growing from the 119 we have now,” said Stanford-Kristiansen.

As for the change in identity, the CEO said: “It was about what we had to do to grow in the future — you see the young viewers with their smartphones and apps and we have to remain relevant for them. The change to Novo is to get in a more funky outlook and reflective of the times we are in.

“Rather than have people coming to our cinemas to watch a film, we wanted it to be more a case of them having ‘A great time out’, which is also our strapline.”

The first of the properties bearing the new look opened at the Abu Dhabi World Trade Centre Mall, and the rollout will take in all of the others in the near term. It currently operates 13 locations in the UAE and one in Jordan.

“From a cinema viewing experience, the UAE’s quite well-established, and it’s fair to say that other Gulf markets can generate higher growth going forward,” said Stanford-Kristiansen. “Still, there; s going to be a lot of action all over the place.”