Middle East pop culture industry ready for record growth

The Middle East Film and Comic Con (MEFCC 2022) will open its doors on Friday, March 4 at the Abu Dhabi National Exhibition Centre


Rohma Sadaqat

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Published: Thu 3 Mar 2022, 6:34 PM

The UAE’s pop culture and entertainment sectors are set to enjoy a record period of growth, supported by a wave of local content being released and big industry players looking to expand on their investments in the Middle East region, experts have said.

Speaking to Khaleej Times ahead of the Middle East Film & Comic Con (MEFCC 2022), Rashid Mohammed Zubair Al Farooq, CEO of Speedy Comics and Collectibles Group – the sponsors of the ‘Meet the Stars’ section – said that fans in the region are “just getting started” on the pop culture phenomenon.

“I believe that we will see a big growth in the market, and bigger players have already started to focus the attention on different genres. Anime has always been a big hit, and that segment continues to grow with many new publications and Arabic content being released,” he said.

Looking back at the lockdowns during the Covid-19 pandemic, he noted that titles such as Lord of the Rings, Harry Potter, Attack on Titan, Demon Slayer, Star Wars, and My Hero Academia continued to be popular to the point that their related memorabilia, such as Funko Pops and comics, have been fast selling out. “We have had instances where we have run out of product!”

Asked if he expected this momentum in home entertainment to continue with pandemic restrictions being lifted, Al Farooq said that he sees a market for both traditional entertainment as well as new media. “I personally missed going to the cinema, however, I also like to binge watch and that is the case with many other people. I believe both sectors will now gain momentum and continue to grow. My love for comics started when I was nine-years old, and has now turned into a family business; we are proud to be the only Emarati family that is into this on a group level with our flagship store located in Dubai’s City Walk, with seven more pop up stores opening over the next two years across the GCC region.”

Similarly, Kishan Palija, CEO of Geekay Group, said that the past two years of the pandemic saw an increasing number of people consuming more pop culture media such as TV shows, movies, and games. “There are more things to look forward to, and more pop culture products out there in the market. As with any business, some categories such as apparel were affected due to the fact that people were observing social distancing and not going out, but other categories such as anime have done very well.”

In addition, he also revealed that the sale of collectibles has gone up. “Many people moved to bigger houses after the lockdowns and took the opportunity to revamp their rooms. The sale of lights and fixtures went up, along with collectibles, as people used them to decorate their new spaces. Looking ahead, the movies segment is going to be very popular with many releases that were delayed being launched. Also, we have new releases set for both the PlayStation and Xbox, so this will all result in a growth in the home entertainment segment.”

Faisal Aljabri, Marketing and PR manager at Geekay, also noted that the PC segment saw a surge in interest both during and after the lockdowns. There were a number of reasons for this such as the growing popularity of e-sports in the region, and residents turning their homes into more of a multi-functioning workstation. He described the demand for gaming monitors and PCs as “insane.”

“It reached a point where you couldn’t find gaming monitors and graphic cards,” he said. “What you could find was doubled in price. The same goes for the PlayStation 5, where the demand for the new consoles far outpaced the supply. The situation right now is slowly improving and supplies are steadily making their way back into the market.”


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