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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Buckle up, the world’s fastest roller coaster is coming to Saudi Arabia

Time: August 27, 2019

  • The Falcon’s Flight ride will be one of the 28 attractions spread over a 32-hectare site at Qiddiya
  • The park will be operated by Six Flags, the world’s largest amusement-park company

QIDDIYA: Saudi Arabia’s first theme park will feature a record-breaking roller coaster inspired by the Arabian falcon that will be the longest, tallest and fastest in the world.

The Falcon’s Flight ride will be one of the 28 attractions spread over six themed “lands” on a 32-hectare site at Qiddiya, 40km west of Riyadh. Construction has already begun, and the park is expected to open early in 2023.

Inspired by Arabian heritage and culture, other signature attractions at the park will be the Sirocco Tower, the world’s tallest drop-tower ride, and the Sea Stallion, which propels riders over rivers, behind waterfalls and through trees along a custom-designed course as they control the speed and acceleration of their horse.

The park will be operated by Six Flags, the world’s largest amusement-park company, which was founded in Texas in 1961 and runs 26 entertainment centers across North America.

Six Flags Qiddiya is expected to attract up to 15,000 visitors a day, and the operators have even made allowances for the scorching Saudi summer heat.

“There are 90 to 120 days when the weather is uncomfortable,” Six Flags International President David McKillips said on Sunday. “A strategy has been developed to operate 365 days a year, providing shade and using technologies like water misters to make the weather bearable.”

The theme park will create 800 full-time jobs, part of a total of 17,000 employment opportunities in the wider Qiddiya entertainment, lifestyle and culture project. By 2030 it is expected to be the world’s largest single tourism destination, covering a total area of 334 sq. km.

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Largest Six Flags theme park in the world to open in Qiddiya

Time: August 26, 2019  

1 / 20
  • Five hotels will open in Qiddiya with different themes and price ranges in a broad spectrum to accommodate all guests

QIDDIYA: World-renowned theme park group Six Flags will open its doors in Qiddiya in early 2023.
With 28 attractions, 12 roller coasters and 6 themed areas covering 79 acres of land, it is set to attract up to 15,000 visitors on a daily basis.
It is the largest investment made in a Six Flags park anywhere in the world, but Qiddiya CEO Michael Reininger did not specify the number.
In a press conference on Monday, the president of Six Flags International, David McKillips, unveiled the park’s initial plans, including sneak peaks at the attractions.
The park, which is inspired by Arabian heritage and culture, is set to open in early 2023. Early construction on the site is already underway.
Of the 12 roller coasters announced, the Falcon’s Flight ride is already drawing attention for being the most “extreme” roller coaster in the world. Inspired by the Arabian falcon, it is expected to be the longest, tallest and fastest roller coaster of its kind.
Ticket prices have not been announced, but there will be day, season and annual passes that will offer price points and different ranges.
Inspiration from other desert theme parks, including Six Flags Texas, is being used to counter the extreme weather conditions the Qiddiya site may encounter.

FASTFACT

• With 28 attractions, 12 roller coasters and 6 themed areas covering 79 acres of land, the park is set to attract up to 15,000 visitors on a daily basis.

• Of the 12 roller coasters announced, the Falcon’s Flight ride is already drawing attention for being the most ‘extreme’ roller coaster in the world.

“A strategy has been developed to operate 365 days a year, providing shade and using technologies like water misters to make the weather bearable,” said McKillips.
More importantly there are many things to do indoors to escape the heat, as when the evening comes the weather changes dramatically. During the summer months, operating days will be moved later during the day and well into the night, with a combination of strategies to fight the heat.
As for the economic benefit, Six Flags will generate 800 full-time jobs and will fit into the expected 17,000 jobs which will be provided with the full opening of Qiddiya.
“Saudi Arabia is a terrific place for Six Flags, as two-thirds of the audience is under 35 years old. There is no better market than Riyadh. It’s better to be in the forefront and to have our brand in Saudi Arabia,” said McKillips.
Five hotels will open in Qiddiya with different themes and price ranges in a broad spectrum to accommodate all guests. The brands of the hotels have not been picked yet, as they are still in the middle of the selection process, but sometime before the end of the year the partners will be announced, added Reininger.

This article was first published in Arab News

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Saudi Arabia’s first home-grown cinema chain to open four multiplexes by year end

Time: August 06, 2019  

The first cinema will be at the Mall of Arabia in Jeddah. (Muvi Cinemas)
  • Muvi Cinemas’ first multiscreen to launch in Jeddah mall as part of deal for 10 more destinations in 2020

RIYADH: Saudi Arabia’s first home-grown cinema chain is to open four new multiplexes in the Kingdom before the end of this year.

Muvi Cinemas has signed a partnership deal with Arabian Centers which will see a network of film theaters established in malls in cities throughout the country.

The first will be at the Mall of Arabia in Jeddah where a 15-screen complex is expected to open to the public in the coming weeks.

It will be followed by cinemas at Nakheel Mall in Dammam, the Mall of Dhahran, Al-Hamra Mall in Riyadh and the new U-Walk boulevard mall complex due for the capital later this year.

Saudi lifestyle destinations operator Arabian Centers and its new partner Muvi Cinemas will continue to expand in 2020 with the launch of an additional 10 malls, bringing the movie experience to eight Saudi cities over the next 24 months through 250 screen choices including ScreenX, Junior, Suites and bespoke Xperience.

Arabian Centers’ CEO Olivier Nougarou, said: “As a local company with a deep understanding of the Saudi consumer, we are delighted to have a cinema chain partner who is also born out of the Kingdom and is equally committed to provide a bespoke and uniquely homegrown entertainment experience.

“We are shortly opening Muvi Cinemas’ first cineplex at our flagship Jeddah mall – the Mall of Arabia – and following it with openings in the capital and Eastern Province as we continue to enable and enhance our lifestyle experience across the Kingdom.”

The film theater partnership with Muvi Cinemas is aligned with the Saudi government’s quality of life program within the Vision 2030 reform plan, that is committed to the introduction of cinemas across the nation as part of a comprehensive range of entertainment, arts and cultural facilities.

This article was first published in Arab News

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Successful first Jeddah Season only the beginning

Time: July 17, 2019  

A view of Jeddah’s old district of Balad (AN photo/Essam Al-Ghalib)

Jeddah is reborn as a tourist destination. Jeddah Season has succeeded in bringing attention to the city nationally and internationally. But, in order to put it firmly on the tourism world map, attention should be given to developing the city’s infrastructure, facilities and long-term planning.

Jeddah is historically the gateway to Makkah and a commercial hub. It has always been the entry point for pilgrims arriving by sea or air on their way to Makkah for Umrah or Hajj, and it naturally became a center for trade. In modern history, when it was developed into a beautiful coastal city, Jeddah was named the “Bride of the Red Sea,” but in past decades it has been mismanaged and neglected. Roads are badly paved and full of potholes, the sewerage system is incomplete, neighborhoods grew haphazardly, poor urban planning, and a dilapidated airport are just some of the city’s main problems.

In recent years, there have been some positive developments, especially at the seafront and in solving the hazard of floods, which a few years ago claimed many lives in an unforgettable disaster. But much, much more needs to be done for the city, starting with its long-awaited new airport, which marks the first impression of the city for any visitor.

Jeddah Season has put a bright face on the city, showing its potential as a tourist destination. Despite the hot, humid weather, people flocked to the events with enthusiasm. The season, which was launched on June 8 and will wrap up on Thursday with a grand finale concert, featured a variety of events suitable for all ages and in different locations. There were concerts by famous Arab and international singers and bands, comedy, drama and kids’ plays, sports events and activities, art exhibitions, and fabulous circus shows and games, in addition to the sumptuous cuisine served by renowned international restaurants and local eateries and the nightly spectacular fireworks.

Al-Balad (old Jeddah) has come alive with the sounds of live music in public squares, the colorful decorations and lights, and the aroma of local dishes prepared by street vendors, not to mention the theater performances by local talents, including the first interactive play in Saudi Arabia — our own version of a haunted house — and also the first art house cinema. Jeddah Waterfront has also been abuzz with amazing shows and entertainment. Al-Hamra district, Obhor, King Abdullah Sports City, the malls, and other locations also thumped with activities, live performances and displays.

In general, the organizing of the events was very good, but in some mass concerts better crowd management was needed. The services, promotion and publicity campaigns were top notch. Some people, however, complained about the extravagant prices of the international restaurants.

In general, the organizing of the events was very good, but in some mass concerts better crowd management was needed.

Maha Akeel

Even though foreign companies are involved, local companies are clearly in charge of many aspects and young Saudi men and women have been present, working hands-on and in the field. Who said Saudis don’t want to work? They are proving the negative stereotypes wrong. They are energetic, creative and willing to work. With the right training and motivation, they can deliver. The season offered an opportunity for Saudi businesses to discover prospects for launching new enterprises, provided that the regulations and incentives are suitable.

With high-profile international events such as the Red Sea International Film Festival scheduled for next year, along with a possible revival of the Jeddah Economic Forum and the launch of other cultural, artistic, scientific, educational and economic events, Jeddah can claim its place as a world-class destination. New hotels are already rising, current sites are being rehabilitated for activities and events, and new development projects have been announced. Jeddah has the necessary ingredients — rich history, location and welcoming people — to lure visitors. The tourist visa is already available. Now we need to lay the groundwork for a diverse palette of activities and sites. Without good infrastructure, enough facilities and quality service, the expected returns will not be sustainable.

Jeddah Season is part of the Saudi Season 2019 initiative that includes programs in other cities and locations across the Kingdom; with the Riyadh Season expected to be the biggest entertainment event in the capital, starting on Oct. 11. Saudi Season 2019 was launched by the Saudi Commission for Tourism and National Heritage with the cooperation of several government departments, including the Ministry of Culture, General Authority for Entertainment, General Sports Authority and the Saudi Exhibition and Convention Bureau, under the leadership of a higher committee chaired by Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman.

Season 2019 is only the beginning, as it paves the way for the seasons to follow. An overall review of the choice of entertainers, events, restaurants and locations, as well as the logistical planning, management, services and promotion is needed to prepare for future seasons.

Putting the spotlight on the unique cultural and historical characteristics of the different cities in Saudi Arabia highlights their potential as destinations for tourism and investment. This is in line with achieving all three pillars of the groundbreaking agenda of Vision 2030: A vibrant society, a thriving economy and an ambitious nation. It also reaches some of the 13 Vision Realization Programs. In particular, the focus on developing the tourism sector would achieve the strategic objective of diversifying the country’s sources of income and attracting investment.

• Maha Akeel is a Saudi writer. She is based in Jeddah. Twitter: @MahaAkeel1

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K-pop superstars BTS to perform in Saudi Arabia in October

14/07/19

BTS made history when they performed at the Grammy Awards. (File/AFP)
  • They will perform on October 11 at the King Fahd International Stadium
  • The Saudi show is part of the group’s record-breaking world tour “Love yourself: Speak yourself”

DUBAI: Global superstars BTS confirmed on Sunday that they will be performing in Saudi Arabia for the first time, just days after another K-pop group debuted in the Kingdom.

Set to happen on October 11 this year, BTS will be performing at the King Fahd International Stadium as part of Riyadh Seasons. The Saudi show is part of the group’s record-breaking world tour “Love yourself: Speak yourself.”

 

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BTS WORLD TOUR ‘LOVE YOURSELF: SPEAK YOURSELF’ 일정 추가 안내

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The K-pop sensation made history earlier at the Grammy Awards in the US as the first Korean act to perform at the glittering ceremony.

Ticket details will be announced at a later date.

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