Saudi movie industry looking bright but still needs push from government

03/12/19

Oscar-winning producer Andres Gomez speaks during a session at the Saudi Media Forum in Riyadh on Monday. (AN photo)

  • There is no lack of enthusiasm for filmmaking in the Kingdom, says Oscar-winning producer

RIYADH: World-renowned, Oscar-winning producer Andres Gomez spoke at the Saudi Media Forum over the weekend, where he spoke about his latest film, “Born a King,” and his upcoming movie “Champions,” which will start shooting in Jeddah in early 2020.

“One of the exciting things about working here is that we are not just making movies — we are creating an industry,” he said, adding there was no lack of enthusiasm for filmmaking in the Kingdom, but a lack of a strong infrastructure to facilitate it.

“Saudi Arabia has great potential to have its own content production industry — and it is in the hands of the government to help it,” he told the forum.

“The government needs to give a framework — there must be legislation, tax rebates, subsidies. There must be regulations in terms of what foreign films can come in and what foreign films cannot.

One of the exciting things about working here is that we are not just making movies — we are creating an industry.

Andres Gomez, Film producer

“Saudi culture must be promoted and protected, and foreign films and their themes should be limited. I’m very interested in helping and developing an industry here.”

Gomez said he was optimistic about the country producing its own content. “Saudi Arabia is a strong country that can create its own content and film industry.

“Saudi Arabia has the financial means; however, it needs to produce more movies and TV content. The moment you produce 50-60 movies a year you will be in the market and (international film) festivals.

FASTFACT

Andres Gomez’s upcoming film will be shot in Jeddah with an all-Saudi crew and cast.

“This is why I made a call to the Saudi government to help young people to create this industry. It does depend totally on the government.”

As for the talents he worked with, he said: “We have collaborated with 100 Saudis on ‘Born a King.” I know there is interest from many in becoming directors, producers, and actors.”

His upcoming film, “Champions,” is a remake of a Spanish film, and shooting will begin in Jeddah by January, with an all-Saudi crew and cast.

“We hope to open the film by September next year,” Gomez added.

This article was first published in Arab News

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Riyadh ‘rocks’ as fireworks light up skyline

30/11/19

Firework by Riyadh Season on Thursday night at iconic Faisaliah Tower in Riyadh

The fireworks display was organized as part of Riyadh Season, which aims to promote the Kingdom as a major tourism hub. (Photo/Supplied)
  • Visitors, including citizens and expatriates with family and friends, gathered around the skyscrapers well in advance of the display

RIYADH: Riyadh Season delivered the “wow factor” for a large crowd of onlookers with a spectacular fireworks display at the Saudi capital’s iconic Al-Faisaliah Tower.

Visitors, including citizens and expatriates with family and friends, gathered around the skyscraper well in advance of the display on Thursday night and began applauding loudly as the fireworks illuminated the skyline.

Iffat Aabroo, who brought her children to see the show, told Arab News: “One of our friends saw the fireworks last week and was amazed, so we came here and saw this wonderful moment. We really enjoyed it.”

Another visitor, Abdullah Al-Suwailem, said: “It was a wow moment. We had great fun and really enjoyed the dazzling moment. Riyadh Season rocks.”

BACKGROUND

• Featuring 100 lavish events and more than 3,000 activities, the season brings people from all over the Kingdom to 12 locations in the capital.

• Displays also take place at the Kingdom Tower, the Boulevard Zone and Janadriyah Heritage Village.

The five-minute fireworks display was organized as part of Riyadh Season, one of 11 Saudi seasons that aim to promote the Kingdom as a tourism hub and improve residents’ quality of life.

Large turnout

Displays also take place at the Kingdom Tower, the Boulevard Zone and Janadriyah Heritage Village. Riyadh Season has been extended to late January 2020 due to high demand and the large turnout for events.

Announcing the extension, General Entertainment Authority Chairman Turki Al-Sheikh recently said: “We have reached 7.6 million visitors in a month for Riyadh Season, and under the crown prince’s directives, we’re extending the season until late January.”

The season began on Oct. 11 and was scheduled to end on Dec. 15.

Featuring 100 lavish events and more than 3,000 activities, the season brings people from all over the Kingdom to 12 locations in the capital.

This article was first published in Arab News

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The ‘Clash on the Dunes’ boxing match will be at iconic venue

Time: November 25, 2019

On the night more than 2,000 staff will ensure proceedings run smoothly in the arena, 95 percent of which is reusable, and which will take a month to take down. (Supplied)
  • Andy Ruiz II and Anthony Joshua will match at the Diriyah Arena
  • Joshua will be looking to regain some of his belts after suffering defeat to Ruiz in New York earlier

RIYADH: A boxing match needs a spectacular venue and few can compare to the Diriyah Arena in Saudi Arabia which is now ready for the Clash on the Dunes as World Champion Andy Ruiz II takes on Anthony Joshua.

Earlier this week, Joshua has promised the world an ‘iconic evening of boxing’ as he flew into the Kingdom on Saturday night ahead of the bout on December 7.

The first-ever World Heavyweight title fight to take place in the Middle Easy will be staged in the custom-built 15,000 seat Diriyah Arena in the heart of the UNESCO World Heritage site, known as the home of heroes and kings.

“The arena and site are utterly breath-taking, with a theme park and concert the night before as well. It’s like nothing we’ve seen before in boxing. The Clash on the Dunes will be a night to remember. We can’t wait,” Eddie Hearn, Managing Director of Matchroom Boxing, said.

The Diriyah Arena has been constructed by 175 staff working tirelessly to transform the 10,000 sq m site, which includes 295 tonnes of steel, which would stretch 57km. Work began on October 7, just two months out, with 3,000 sqm of scaffolding needed to complete the work.

On the night more than 2,000 staff will ensure proceedings run smoothly in the arena, 95 percent of which is reusable, and which will take a month to take down.

Joshua will be looking to regain his WBO, WBA, IBF and IBO belts after suffering defeat to Ruiz in New York earlier this year, but the British heavyweight will have the backing thousands of UK fans join boxing enthusiasts from more than 60 countries.

Ahead of landing in Saudi Arabia on Saturday night to set up his pre-fight training camp, Anthony Joshua said: “It’ll definitely be a night people will tell their grandchildren they were at, one of those iconic evenings of boxing. Everyone from Saudi has been brilliant to work with.”

Fans will approach the Diriyah Arena via the Diriyah Oasis, a huge sprawling entertainment hub which includes ice-skating outdoors, sky diving, jetski-ing and ziplining among a host of activities on offer. The Diriyah Oasis is split into the four zones – Nature, Imagination, Reflection, Excitement- giving families a place to come together, and at its heart lies an astonishing grand installation by world-renowned Italian artist, Edoardo Tresoldi.

The Clash On The Dunes forms part of the Diriyah Season, epic month of sports which kicked off with Formula E at the weekend, the Diriyah Tennis Cup featuring eight of the best men’s players on the planet, and the Diriyah Equestrian Festival, an elite competition with Tokyo Olympics 2020 qualifying points on the line.

The Diriyah Season is also supported by the Diriyah Music Festival with huge concerts taking place around the event. On December 6, the night before the Clash On The Dunes, major artists who are yet to be announced will perform. So far artists such as Imagine Dragons, DJ Alan Walker, Clean Bandit and Maluma have performed to 40,000 concert goers.

This article was first published in Arab News

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Riyadh Season attracts more than 5m visitors

Time: November 04, 2019

People attend the Colour Run event during Riyadh season festival, in Saudi Arabia, October 26, 2019. (REUTERS)

  • The season is one of the Saudi Seasons launched to transform Saudi Arabia into one of the world’s most important tourist and entertainment destinations

RIYADH: General Entertainment Authority (GEA) Chairman Turki Al-Sheikh said that Riyadh Season had attracted more than five million visitors since its launch on Oct. 15 and up to Nov. 1, the Saudi Press Agency reported on Sunday.
The GEA said that it had hit new records in visitor numbers, especially over the weekend, with the number of visitors exceeding 200,000 last Thursday and reaching 175,000 on Friday.
Riyadh Season runs until mid-December in 12 main zones of the capital and 6 branches around the city. The zones are (1) Riyadh Boulevard, (2) Riyadh Front, (3) Riyadh Car Exhibition, (4) Riyadh Winter Wonderland, (5) Riyadh Sports Arenas, (6) Diplomatic Quarter, (7) Al-Muraba’a, (8) Al-Malaz, (9) Wadi Namar, (10) Riyadh Beat, (11) Riyadh Safari and (12) Riyadh Sahara within the capital city of Riyadh.
The season is one of the Saudi Seasons launched to transform Saudi Arabia into one of the world’s most important tourist and entertainment destinations.
Saudi Seasons is also part of the Saudi leadership’s plan to strengthen the Kingdom’s position on the global tourism and entertainment map, as well as promoting entertainment within an economic system that supports Vision 2030.

This article was first published in Arab News

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Al Akaria signs $5bn deal with Triple Five to build entertainment and commercial center in Riyadh

Time: November 01, 2019

RIYADH: Saudi Arabia’s Al Akaria has signed an investment agreement with Triple Five worth $5 billion to develop American Dream, “an international tourist destination” the Saudi Arabian General Investment Authority (SAGIA) said on Thursday.

This brings the value of deals announced by SAGIA at the Future Investmnet Initiative conference to $20 billion, it said in a statement.

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Jackie Chan hopes to make films in Saudi Arabia

20/10/19

Martial arts actor Jackie Chan, who plays the voice of “Master Wu”, arrives for the premiere of The Lego Ninjago Movie in Los Angeles, California on September 16, 2017. (Photo by FREDERIC J. BROWN / AFP)

Jackie Chan thanked Saudi Arabia for inviting him to the country. (File/AFP)

  • Jackie Chan expressed hopes the Kingdom would become a leading center of regional film and television

DUBAI: Hong Kong martial artist and actors Jackie Chan, who was recently in Riyadh to accept a Joy Excellence award, is looking forward to filming movies in Saudi Arabia, Chinese press has reported.

The actor also told the crowd gathered at the Joy Forum19, which gathered entertainment promoters and industry pioneers along with global stars including Indian actor Shah Rukh Khan and Hollywood star Jean-Claude Van Damme, that he had found a location in the Kingdom to make another action film.

“It’s my first time in Saudi, and I know it’s a big country. After only a few hours [travelling] here and looking at locations I know there’s a good place for car chasing, explosions, action; so, next time, I hope to come back with my crew,” Chan said.

The movie legend also thanked Saudi Arabia for inviting him to the country, and expressed hopes the Kingdom would become a leading center of regional film and television.

This article was first published in Arab News

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KSA to host largest gathering of events industry professionals

Time: September 17, 2019  

Saudi Arabia’s General Entertainment Authority (GEA) is currently working on a broad framework for entertainment services in all cities across the country.

Saudi Arabia is poised to become the central destination for events in the Middle East by 2020. This is the prediction of events and entertainment industry experts who are gathering at the upcoming Saudi Event Show, which will be held Sept. 25-26 at the Riyadh International Convention and Exhibition Center.

“The Saudi Event Show is an ideal platform for events and entertainment industry professionals to learn about the advancements and how to overcome any challenges they are experiencing in the market,” said Amar Daginawala, exhibition manager at Informa Middle East. “The show will provide participants with an opportunity to understand the latest trends driving the local events industry, meet and learn from the thought-provoking industry leaders and attend informative seminar sessions.”

Saudi Arabia’s General Entertainment Authority (GEA) is currently working on a broad framework for entertainment services in all cities across the country.

“The Kingdom will invest $64 billion in the entertainment sector over the coming decade, which proves the huge market potential for everyone in the events and entertainment industry,” he added.

Daginawala said: “Saudi Arabia is the region’s largest untapped market in terms of events and entertainment. Therefore, advancing the MICE (meetings, incentives, conferencing and exhibitions) and entertainment sector is one of the major parts of the Kingdom’s Vision 2030 reforms.”

The Saudi Event Show will feature more than 25 seminars and entertainment sessions, keynote speeches and panel discussions, covering everything about the Kingdom’s event industry, including market updates, visas and regulations, trends, eSports events, catering, marketing, the latest event tech, and much more.

Participants will get the chance to connect with more than 2,000 events and entertainment professionals and 50 innovative exhibitors, including organizers, entertainment professionals, marketing, PR and creative specialists, operations experts, event technology and solution providers, regulators and other stakeholders.

Some prominent speakers at the two-day event include Mohammed Tayem, CEO, entourage marketing & events, who will talk about “Recruiting Your ‘Dream Team’ in the Saudi Arabian Events & Entertainment Sector,” Philip Wride, CEO of Cheesecake Digital, who will present ideas around “Getting Started In Esports,” and Sujoy Cherian, CEO, Option 1 Event Services, who will talk about “Services Innovation & the Future in Event Technology.”

This article was first published in Arab News

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World’s richest horse race Saudi Cup to ‘open doors’ for tourists to Saudi Arabia

16/09/19

Race billed as the richest on the planet with prize fund of $20 million
Visa procedures for the event were also confirmed on Monday
LONDON: Next year’s Saudi Cup horse race in Riyadh will help open up Saudi Arabia to visitors from around the world, Jockey Club of Saudi Arabia chairman Prince Bandar bin Khalid Al-Faisal said on Monday.

The race, billed as the richest on the planet with a prize fund of $20 million, will be run at the King Abdul Aziz racetrack in Riyadh on Feb. 29.

The race over a distance of nine furlongs (1,800 meters) on the dirt track will have a maximum field of 14 starters and will be free to enter and to participate in.

Prince Bandar told Arab News the race will allow visitors to the Kingdom an opportunity to enjoy everything the country has to offer.

“This event was initiated by the Jockey Club of Saudi Arabia, it has been two years in the making, and we were extremely encouraged by the position of the government,” he said.

“They have been very supportive in everything they can do to ensure it is a successful event, there is a definite political will to do so.”

Prince Bandar referred to an announcement earlier this month that Saudi Arabia would open its doors to tourists from around the world by the end of 2019.

“So that works for us very nicely,” he added.

Prince Bandar said while the prize money was obviously important in building the reputation of the event, it was not the sole reason for its hosting and that he hoped it would establish Saudi Arabia as a major racing nation on the global stage.

“It definitely falls in line with the kind of activities that are now opening up the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia and its people and culture to people from all over the world, so that they can come and experience the country first-hand and have the opportunity to see a part of the world that has not been visited as often as we would like.

“The introduction of the Saudi Cup as an international race is without doubt the most significant event in the history of horse racing in Saudi Arabia and it demonstrates our resolve to develop this great sport in the Kingdom and also our ambition to become a leading player on horse racing’s world stage,” he added.

During his address in central London Prince Bandar said: “We will be thrilled to welcome international competitors to these new races. I am especially pleased that we will be having turf racing in Riyadh for the first time, things are really beginning to take shape.”

The prince also said he was keen for women jockeys and trainers to get involved with the Saudi Cup, adding they would be “most welcome” to compete at the event, and that he hoped it would entice some of the world’s most promising female talent.

“Women have been very active in equestrianism as a whole in the Kingdom, it is quite normal in Saudi Arabia for them to compete at that level,” he said.

Also announced at the London launch were the meeting’s support races, which include a staying handicap race run over 3,000 meters, a middle-distance race over 2,100 meters, while the two races on the dirt track are over 1,200 meters and 1,600 meters.

Tom Ryan, Saudi Cup Race Director, said the races and the horses competing in them had been selected to offer the most competitive spectacle possible for the estimated 10,000-12,000 expected to be watching at the racetrack itself and global television audiences.

World-renowned jockey Frankie Dettori also spoke at the event and described his experiences of running horses on the King Abdul Aziz dirt track.

“I’ve been very fortunate to have been going there for a number of years, and the quality of the dirt track in Riyadh is second to none, probably the best I’ve ridden on.

“I’ve ridden European horses on it, and they take to it really well, and the new turf track will give the day even more appeal.

“I’m sure this is going to attract a lot of interest from around the world, I hope I’ll be there on the starting line come February 29.”

Visa procedures for the event were also confirmed on Monday, with the Saudi Cup following a similar system used by recent sporting events hosted in Saudi Arabia. Racegoers who buy a ticket for the Saudi Cup will automatically receive a visa to enter the Kingdom.

Prince Bandar said: “In Saudi Arabia, we’ve had experience with Formula E and other such events, whether it is in hospitality or entertainment and we have no problem with accommodation for those involved with the horses or who wish to attend the event.

“We will also be providing programs and packages for people who wish to tour Saudi Arabia, whether it is for the archaeology, for nature, or the seas, deserts or mountains — we have everything accounted for.”

This article was first published in Arab News

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Saudi crown prince attends the closing ceremony of camel festival

16/09/19

TAIF: Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman patronized the closing ceremony of the 2nd edition of the Crown Prince Camel Festival on Sunday.

The ceremony took place at the camel racing field in Taif, in the presence of princes, dignitaries and guests of the festival from various Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) countries.

Upon arrival, the crown prince was received by Prince Abdul Aziz bin Turki Al-Faisal, chairman of the General Sports Authority and Prince Fahd bin Jalawi bin Musaed, president of the Saudi Camel Federation.

Prince Abdul Aziz thanked King Salman and the crown prince for their continuous support for the athletes of the Kingdom.

He added that this year witnessed the participation of 13,377 camels.

Towards the end of the ceremony, the crown prince distributed prizes to the winners of the camel races.

This article was first published in Arab News

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Where We Are Going Today: Vox Cinema

Time: September 07, 2019  

Vox Cinema in Jeddah is located at Red Sea Mall. (Supplied)
  • Vox Cinema in Jeddah is located at Red Sea Mall, which means cinemagoers can pop to the shops or enjoy a meal with friends or family before the film

JEDDAH: The opportunity to go to the cinema in the city where I was born, Jeddah, is a dream come true. As an avid movie-lover and cinemagoer whenever traveling outside of Saudi Arabia, I feel privileged to be able to visit movie theaters in my own country, thanks to the many reforms taking place in the Kingdom.
I can book tickets via my online account, calmly selecting seats and show times without the stress of delaying others in queues at cinema box offices.
Vox Cinema in Jeddah is located at Red Sea Mall, which means cinemagoers can pop to the shops or enjoy a meal with friends or family before the film.
My first experience with Vox Cinema was a screening of Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse which I watched with my younger brother. I remember being so excited as I found my seat. The halls were clean, the seats comfortable, and the staff friendly and accommodating.
As the movie began, I found myself immersed in the whole experience which was enhanced through the surround-sound system.
Since then, I have been to several more showings in the IMAX and kids’ theaters, and I am yet to be disappointed.

This article was first published in Arab News

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