High-speed chases, espionage, massive car pile-ups in action-packed adventure flics?
No, these are not yet part of the Saudi movie scene, but no reason why they can’t.
Plenty is happening in the Kingdom, but what’s one thing going at very high speeds?
According to Forbes, as Saudi gets closer to licensing movie theatres for the first time in over 35 years, a rush of interest is coming from cinema operators hoping to capitalize from the virgin territory for the industry.
On March 1, Saudi Arabia started issuing licenses for cinema-operators in the Kingdom.
The list of international players includes Canada’s Imax Corporation, Kansas-based AMC Entertainment Holdings and the UAE’s Vox Cinemas.
“The latest to flesh out their plans include Nasdaq-listed iPic Entertainment and the UK’s Vue International, both of which have recently signed memoranda of understanding with local partners,” said Forbes.
“In iPic’s case, it is with Saudi BAS Global Investments Company while Vue has partnered with shopping mall developer Abdulmohsin Al Hokair Holding Group.”
The Ministry of Culture and Information said it expected to have 2,000 screens in more than 300 cinemas by 2030.
“ Vue International said it was planning up to 30 multiplex outlets in existing and new retail developments over the next three years, while Imax chief executive Richard Gelfond has said his company hopes to have 20 theatres operational within three years. Vox is thought to be planning a similar number, while iPic says it could develop 25 to 30 sites over the next 10 years,” said Forbes.
What censorship and seating restrictions will take place are still issues not yet clear.
Challenges and expectations
Arab News said a panel of experts from the Saudi Art Council, in collaboration with the American Film Showcase, gathered to discuss the future of cinematic story-telling in the Kingdom and the challenges that lie ahead.
“There needs to be a law infrastructure for the cinema, so people can be directed in the right direction,” said Saudi actor and comedian, Hisham Fageeh, one of the panellists.
Filmmaker Anu Valia — whose recent short film “Lucia, Before and After” premiered at the Sundance Film Festival where it won the Jury Prize for US fiction said: “Consistent encouragement is 80 percent of the work for me.”
“Youngsters … need to learn from their mistakes,” said the third panellist, Jasim Al-Saady, a production manager and assistant director for “Hologram for the King,” “Journey to Mecca” and “Where in the World is Osama bin Laden”.
By 2030, the kingdom hopes to build a $24 billion industry and create 30,000 permanent jobs.
Crowds thirsty for entertainment
Riyadh, Jeddah and Dammam, have recently seen big crowds turn up for events organized by the General Entertainment Authority (GEA).
The GEA has organized events such as the Spirit of the Dance global band’s show at the King Fahd Cultural Center, the first-ever Groovz Jazz Festival at the Golf Club, InterContinental Hotel; an opera show at the Princess Nourah bint Abdulrahman University; and a talk session with Hollywood superstar John Travolta at the iconic APEX Convention Center in the King Abdullah Petroleum Studies and Research Center.
The GEA last month announced that it will host an unprecedented number of events throughout the Kingdom this year — the most diverse lineup of entertainment ever seen in Saudi Arabia with more than 5,000 live shows, festivals and concerts planned across 56 cities.
First ever Saudi-US movie
The National daily said we can now watch the first ever Saudi/American co-produced movie in the shape of The Arabian Warrior, a sporting drama which had its regional premiere in Dubai on Monday, and opens in cinemas nationally this weekend.
“The film tells the story of Anmar Almadi, a Saudi student in the United States who dreams of becoming a professional footballer. His father and family have other ideas, however, and the ensuing struggle serves as a microcosm of the conflict between the modern and the traditional that pervades contemporary Saudi society,” said the daily.
Saudi animation movie rights to UAE
VOX Cinemas, the largest cinema operator in the MENA region, has signed an exclusive distribution deal with Myrkott, the Saudi production company behind YouTube animated hit Masameer, according to Majd Al Futtaim.
Owned and operated by Majid Al Futtaim Cinemas, VOX Cinemas is the cinema arm of Majid Al Futtaim, the leading shopping mall, retail and leisure pioneer across the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) with over 300 screens across the region.
“Masameer has attracted more than 700 million views across social media and the announcement will see Myrkott content screened across the MENA, said press release by Majid Al Futtaim.
“This includes the exclusive distribution of a forthcoming feature film based on their popular YouTube show,” the statement said.
With two million YouTube subscribers and a further three million followers across Facebook and Twitter, Myrkott has produced more than 100 Masameer shows covering a variety of subjects related to Saudi society and the pursuit of the 2030 Vision.