Behind-the-scenes of AMC Cinema’s foray into Saudi Arabia — An Influx perspective

| Archana Jayaraman | - @Archietokes

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Designing a website for AMC Cinemas, Saudi Arabia’s first cinema theatre in over 35 years, has been a brag-worthy moment for Influx. Working closely with Vista, the leading software services provider for cinema globally, we took the website live in record time!

Amit Mehta (@AmitKO84), our suave GCC business head based out of Dubai, and Nagarajan Manimaran (@universalnaga), our quiet, unassuming tech head, recounted their experiences of working on the project.

 Mother of all briefs — AMC Saudi Arabia?

Amit: We are talking about the largest movie theatre chain in the world! Of course, it was huge for us. They were the first ones to get a license to operate in Saudi Arabia, and while in discussion with Vista for developing their website, our name was suggested.

Naga: Discussions began towards the end of March 2018 and the client wanted the website live before 18 April, which is when the cinema was to open its doors to the public.

 Fun fact:

Our usual timelines for website development from scratch are around 40-50 days.

Amit: It was a race against time, but one totally worth running.

 That seems challenging. How did you go about it?

Amit: Working with the AMC Cinemas teams across the US, UK and Saudi, we did some heavy-lifting to get things done on time. We developed and customised the front-end for AMC and integrated Vista’s ticketing software to deliver a seamless website that not only performed all the functionalities with ease but looked fantastic.

Naga: Design-wise, the idea was to give a typical “cinematic” feel to the site for the users. We adapted the colour scheme of red and black, based on AMC’s branding guidelines.

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People in Saudi usually travel to other countries to watch movies; you can imagine the excitement and response when a cinema opens in Riyadh! The site had to load without any glitches, so we kept the content and images light and simple.

All these processes had several considerations which had to be addressed, but we got there soon enough.

 How soon?

Naga: Took us fifteen days. The beta link was sent to them on 15 April. The next day, I was on a flight to Riyadh.

Amit: The result was an aesthetically-stunning website, which showed seamless performance. We did go a notch higher than what AMC had asked for, which is why they loved it and gave us the thumbs up almost immediately. Both the English and Arabic versions were live.

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 And what happened then?

Naga: Amit and I headed to AMC Cinemas in Riyadh, which is located at KAFD, or King Abdullah Financial District. Website-wise, everything went off smoothly, though our trip was quite eventful.

We had to pass through layers to security to reach the cinema. Since there was some delay in receiving the security pass from our Saudi colleague (let’s call him X), whom we hadn’t met so far, we got held up at the first checkpost.

Our attempts to explain the situation in a mix of English and vigorous sign language weren’t successful. Ultimately, our guard asked us if X had invited us and let us in; we passed through all the security checks and reached the entrance, just as X was passing right by us. Oblivious to his presence, we walked up to the security there and asked to meet X, who was clearly still there. To this day, I have not seen such stern-looking men become absolutely bemused.

So, three things: we did meet X, our security-dodging skills entertained everyone present there, and we are never returning to Saudi without a picture of our colleagues. Ever.

Several stories and guffaws later, Amit and Naga spoke about how incredible it was to be a part of a landmark moment and what it meant for Influx, going ahead.

Naga: The launch was such a big event in Riyadh. It was great to see people coming and watching a movie in their country after such a long time — and a fantastic movie, Black Panther, at that. Content and audience considerations were in accordance with the local culture and it helped spread a lot of joy, which was good to see and be a part of.

Amit: This project has added a feather to Influx’s cap. For one, the fact that AMC and Vista entrusted us with such an important project, and we delivered, has definitely made us and our clients more aware of our capabilities and re-affirmed that we are, indeed, the Cinema Experts.

We now look forward to working on creating more fully blown-out websites and apps. Also, we are working on consolidating our presence in the region and growing our business.

Here’s to lots of happy and frenetic clicking!

 You can see the website in action at https://www.amccinemas.net

Archana Jayaraman is our Associate Content Writer. She has a bachelor’s degree in Environment Engineering and a master’s in Sustainability Studies from the UN University. She is a nature and culture enthusiast and enjoys literature ranging from Valmiki to Roald Dahl with an additional Rowling now and again.

 
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