Cinema returns to Saudi Arabia

‘Black Panther’ screened at newly set up cinema complex at King Abdullah Financial District

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Saudi Gazette report

RIYADH — The Development and Investment Entertainment Company (DIEC), a wholly owned subsidiary of Saudi Arabia’s Public Investment Fund (PIF), on Wednesday oversaw the historic launch of the Kingdom’s first public cinema in collaboration with AMC Entertainment at a newly set up cinema complex at King Abdullah Financial District (KAFD) in Riyadh.

DIEC and AMC Entertainment commemorated the historic moment with a gala event hosting prominent local and international guests. Following the formal ribbon cutting ceremony, guests filed into the cinema to watch the Hollywood blockbuster Black Panther, the first showing of its kind in the Kingdom in decades.

The theater is to open to the public this week, and details on how to obtain tickets will be announced on Friday.

Three more screens at KAFD’s theatre will open in the third quarter of 2018, marking the beginning of a partnership that could see 30 to 40 cinemas in approximately 15 cities in Saudi Arabia over the next five years, and 50 to 100 cinemas in about 25 Saudi cities by 2030.

As part of Saudi Arabia’s social and economic reform program under Vision 2030, spearheaded by Crown Prince Muhammad Bin Salman, the Ministry of Culture and Information announced a landmark decision in December to allow commercial cinemas to operate in the Kingdom from early 2018, for the first time in more than 35 years.

Dr. Awwad Alawwad, Minister of Culture and Information, said: “The return of cinema to Saudi Arabia marks an important moment in the Kingdom’s modern day history and cultural life, as well as in the development of the Kingdom’s entertainment industry.”

He added: “Today, we mark a major step in fulfilling our commitment to improving the lives of all in the Kingdom, a key pillar of Vision 2030. Cinema has always played an important role in bringing cultures together, and Saudi Arabia is ready to play its part.

“Through clear and transparent regulatory frameworks, we will ensure that both international and Saudi filmmakers have an opportunity to showcase their work across our country.”

According to the latest plans, Saudi Arabia will open about 350 cinemas and 2,500 screens by 2030, generating approximately $1billion in box office spend each year and transforming the Kingdom into the 11th largest market in the world.

This is expected to create a substantial number of new jobs in the Kingdom, around 30,000 permanent jobs and around 130,000 temporary jobs by 2030.

The industry is regulated by the Saudi General Commission for Audiovisual Media (GCAM), who are working closely with film distributors and cinema operators. A framework for classifying and approving films for distribution is in place, and as well as Black Panther, there are a number of upcoming blockbusters that are currently in the process of being classified. Under the guidelines set-out by GCAM there will be dedicated screenings for all segments of society.

Abdullah Al Dawood, Chairman of DIEC, said: “DIEC is very proud to launch the first public cinema in Saudi Arabia in partnership with AMC and do so in such an iconic location.”

He said, “The entertainment industry in Saudi Arabia holds incredible promise and we are firmly committed to seeing the exciting world of international, regional and Saudi filmmaking featured in cinemas in every major city in the Kingdom, as set out in Vision 2030.”

KAFD, which is hosting the first AMC Cinemas complex, is Saudi Arabia’s Central Business District which will provide modern, integrated and mixed-use areas, comprising high quality office, residential and hospitality space.

Adam Aron, CEO of AMC Entertainment, said: “At AMC we have around 1,000 theaters and 11,000 screens across the globe – but none of them have caught the world’s imagination like this one. When I talked to people around the world in recent weeks it was clear that this is a historic event.”


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