IMAX is pursuing a scale-up of movie theaters in Saudi Arabia, the cinema technology firm's CEO said Tuesday.
Richard Gelfond told CNBC that IMAX hopes to operate up to 20 theaters in the conservative country within three years, after a ban on cinemas that had been in place for 35 years was lifted on Monday.
"We've heard rumblings for the past year that this was going to happen. We've actually been in preliminary negotiations with a number of cinema operators, who have clients, to go into Saudi Arabia," Gelfond said.
"We're close to announcing a deal, which we're hoping to announce at the end of this year. For the size of this market, there's a big opportunity. We could have 15 to 20 theatres over the next three years in Saudi Arabia and open the first one in 2018."
The ban on movie theaters was put in place in the early 1980s following the 1979 Grand Mosque Seizure that gave religious clerics a powerful hold on the country.