Life as an Expat – In Conversation with Simon Bobin

Simon Bobin, experienced film sales executive, took on a new challenge earlier this year. With a background at Paramount, Sony Pictures and Studiocanal, he was well placed to take on his new international role as Head of Sales for Majid Al Futtaim Cinemas. That role would provide a new challenge – moving 5,000km to take a new position in Dubai, and opting for the 40 degree heat was no mean feat. Here, we discuss the process with Simon and what his new role entailed in the Middle East region.

With a family to consider, ensuring they would enjoy the experience too was upmost priority for Simon. They had previously experienced the expat lifestyle, as Simon had previously worked in France with Studiocanal, but the move to Dubai would take them further afield than ever before. He said: “for me and my wife, moving three young children to a new country thousands of miles was definitely a little daunting!”

With the family on board with the move, it was important to find the right place to live. Simon said: “We researched a lot about the different areas to live and also the schools for our children. We talked to and emailed friends who were already living in Dubai and that was a great source of information.” The family took it in their stride and they are all happily settled into the new lifestyle, though he joked that “nothing can prepare you for the heat of the desert when arriving in July!”

For his new role with Majid Al Futtaim Cinemas, he will be hands on with the sales and distribution of some of the world’s biggest blockbusters from 20th Century Fox. Bringing the likes of X-Men, Planet of the Apes and Ice Age to the Middle East certainly presents its challenges. Every region’s demographics preferred various genres compared to other regions, hence one of Simon’s initial tasks was to understand the region. As a previous expat, Simon was able to draw on his prior experience working across different regions, including the Middle East, having covered it during his stint at Sony Pictures as Sales Manager for EMEA.

One territory will become a key marketplace across all sectors within the film industry going forward. Early this year, Saudi Arabia opened its first cinema as part of a wider liberalisation in the Kingdom. The 35-year ban meant avid film fans would have to watch films in private (BBC News), but with new cinemas popping up across the country, its offering consumers more choice of films than ever before.

Simon revealed a wave of new cinemas: “We are going to see the start of a rapid expansion plan as new cinemas start opening up at a pace.” He mentioned that the sister company, VOX Cinemas have got some incredible plans for the territory, bringing one of the most innovative and market-leading cinemas to customers in Saudi Arabia. Plus, we’ve heard how UK cinema chain Vue Entertainment are planning an extensive expansion into Saudi Arabia, having signed an agreement with a major shopping centre operator in the territory. Opening 30 multiplexes across the country will be no mean feat, but this joint venture is targeting their first permanent cinema by the end of 2018 (Telegraph).

For local exhibitors and distributors, they are seeing this liberalisation of the film exhibition sector in Saudi Arabia as an opportunity. Simon eyes the market as a great opportunity, “the potential of the market is huge”, but admits that “it’s still very early days” and “it’s going to take time and proper planning.

Moving all those miles may have been daunting, but Simon has shown that its certainly possible to embrace the new expat lifestyle (and the desert heat). We would like to thank Simon for his time and dedication for this article.

VOX Cinemas – Mall of the Emirates (Photo Credit: What’s On UAE, Motivate Publishing)