Picture’s up, rolling, mark, set, annnnd Action!
Saudi Arabia is going Hollywood!
Saudi Arabia’s sovereign wealth fund, the Public Investment Fund (PIF), is in talks to buy a stake in Endeavor, the holding company for Hollywood talent agency WME, according to Bloomberg News.
“PIF is in preliminary discussions to invest more than $500 million, which will help the talent agency for Ben Affleck and Matt Damon expand its operations,” said the statement, with an estimated ownership stake between 5% and 10%.
Guess what? Hollywood is also coming to town.
Back from the dead
Like Arnold Schwarzenegger’s famous one liner: “I’ll be back”, the Kingdom’s film industry is making a comeback 30 years after the curtains were lowered on the sector.
Saudi-born U.S. producer Todd Nims, who is working with the Saudi government, said that the Saudis will have studios, film commissions, and tax incentives for production.
“The government has just opened a business development unit dedicated to movie theaters, gaming and film production,” Nims was quoted by Variety as saying adding that he will be helping them develop this unit.
“I will be going to L.A. to see what is possible in that area. I want to help create that bridge,” Nims says, noting that “there will be some partnerships struck up between Hollywood and Saudi.”
The next Arnold maybe a promising Saudi actor waiting in the wings.
But unbeknownst to most movie aficionados, Saudi already has a stake in US film making.
Saudis who made it big in Hollywood
Pasadena star news, a platform for stars news, reveals that a two-day “Saudi Film Days” event was held in August 2017 in Hollywood with a private VIP screening at Paramount Studios that showcased the work of eight Saudi filmmakers.
Ali Alsumayin, who directed a short film called “I Can’t Kiss Myself,” was among the movie makers.
Alsumayin said he hopes to learn from Hollywood filmmakers who are already “way ahead” in the process of producing and marketing movies.
According to Pasadena, Rudy Langlais, whose production company produced the Oscar-nominated movie “The Hurricane,” attended Saudi Film Days and said he was impressed by what he saw.
“There was a high degree of quality about the way the films were done,” he was quoted as saying. “I was very impressed by the technical proficiency of the films.” “Ingenious.”
Moreover, Mohammed Al Turki an ambitious producer, actor and philanthropist in the industry was born in Saudi Arabia and moved to Hollywood to launch his career.
“I’m very proud of my heritage and proud to be Saudi, but yes, being Saudi can also be quite the obstacle in Hollywood. People sometimes go into… shock when I tell them where I’m from,” he was quoted as saying by Khaleejesque, a culture magazine.
Turki’s productions have allowed him to work with Cannes Jury member Elodie Bouchez, Oscar winner Susan Sarandon, Richard Gere, and many more inspiring individuals.
A tough act to follow
Meanwhile, media reports quoted Albara Al Auhali who heads the King Abdulaziz Center for World Culture as saying that breaking through in the industry is decidedly tougher for Saudi filmmakers.
“It’s harder for them to make money,” he said. “There’s no ecosystem there.”
Al Auhali said the filmmakers are looking to make valuable connections and get support from people in Hollywood’s movie industry.
“We want to bridge the gap between the two cultures,” he said.
The rebirth of cinemas
CINEMA 70, Saudi Arabia’s first cinema brand, presented a series of international family movies over six days in January.
The movies were accompanied by various activities and events while the series began with Captain Underpants and The Emoji Movie.
After watching The Emoji Movie with his wife and daughter on Sunday evening, 28-year-old Sultan al-Otaibi said Saudis are happy to see movies in the theater instead of staying at home, according to Reuters.
“It’s more comfortable, more fun to have a change of scenery and an activity on the weekend. It is a step that was very late in coming but thank God it’s happening now,” he was quoted by Reuters as saying.
This is part of a plan by Saudi’s PIF to invest $2.7bn in entertainment, including theatres at new malls.