Saudi Arabia to invest $64 billion in entertainment sector over coming decade

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General Entertainment Authority chief Ahmad bin Aqeel Al-Khatib said the money will come from both the government and the private sector. (Courtesy General Entertainment Authority)
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Updated 22 February 2018
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Saudi Arabia to invest $64 billion in entertainment sector over coming decade

RIYAD: Saudi Arabia is to invest $64 billion in its entertainment sector over the coming decade, an official said Thursday, as the kingdom pursues a program of social and economic reforms.
General Entertainment Authority (GEA) chief Ahmad bin Aqeel Al-Khatib said the money will come from both the government and the private sector.
In addition, Saudi Arabia says construction will soon begin on the first opera house in the kingdom, where concerts have been banned for two decades, along with music in restaurants and stores.
The kingdom has been relaxing its decades-old restrictions on entertainment and fun, as part of a wider effort spearheaded by the young crown prince to boost the economy and increase household spending domestically.
Thursday’s announcement says the opera house will be built in the Red Sea city of Jeddah on the kingdom’s western coast. The city, a gateway for millions of Muslim pilgrims from around the world, is seen as more liberal and ethnically diverse than the landlocked capital of Riyadh.
Next month, the kingdom is planning to open the country’s first movie theater after a more than 35-year-ban.
Al-Khatib also said that 500 companies have registered to organize entertainment events in one year, with the authority earlier announcing that more than 5,000 events in 56 cities in the Kingdom were slated in its 2018 entertainment calendar.
GEA announced it will host an unprecedented number of events in the Kingdom this year, with more than 5,000 live shows, festivals and concerts planned in 56 cities across all regions. 
The 2018 entertainment calendar is the most diverse line-up of live entertainment ever seen in Saudi Arabia, ranging from musicals and shows for all the family, to stand-up comedy and live performances from some of the biggest names in global music. 
The announcement was made at a special event in Riyadh in the presence of Al-Khatib, Chairman of the Board, and the CEO of GEA, Eng. Faisal Bafarat, alongside a number of Excellencies and esteemed guests.
Al-Khatib said: “The GEA is taking accelerated steps toward enhancing lifestyle in all regions of Saudi Arabia by providing rich and diverse entertainment options and experiences for people to enjoy. GEA contributes directly to the objectives of the Quality of Life program, which aims to achieve a thriving economy and a vibrant society in which citizens and residents enjoy a better quality of life.”
He revealed that the entertainment sector needs SAR 267 billion of investment to build entertainment infrastructure in all regions of the Kingdom, and investment in infrastructure between 2017 and 2030 is expected to contribute SAR 18 billion per year to Saudi Arabia's GDP, with consumer spending estimated to reach SAR 36 billion by 2030.
“GEA is proud to be one of the drivers of transformation in the Kingdom, through its clear purpose to build a world-class entertainment industry that will put the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia on the global tourism and entertainment map,” he added.
For his part, Eng. Bafarat said: “This year will not only provide more opportunities for people to share rich experiences with family and friends, but will also significantly contribute to the continued development of the entertainment industry in the Kingdom. 2018 marks a change in pace thanks to the sheer scale of the program we are offering. Thousands of events will be organized and regulated, providing more opportunities than ever for us to continue to enhance the quality of entertainment events in the Kingdom, as well as adhere to the highest international standards.”
Bafarat presented the 2018 entertainment line-up highlights which include 55 headline events alongside thousands of events hosted by private organizers, municipalities and governorates that will be supported by GEA.
“The diversity and scale of the 2018 entertainment program will play a significant role in the continued growth of the entertainment industry in the Kingdom with a total of 224,000 new jobs, including 114,000 direct and 110,000 indirect jobs expected to be created in the sector by 2030,” Barafat said. “Families, young people and children will be able to enjoy live music performances, theater shows, musicals, circus performances, community festivals and much more across the Kingdom,” he added.
The General Entertainment Authority was established in 2016 and managed 52 events that year which were attended by more than 100,000 people. In 2017, the Authority hosted more than 2,200 events attended by 8.2 million people. The 2018 entertainment calendar will feature more events than ever taking place throughout the Kingdom, including performances from some of the world’s most celebrated artists.
GEA was established in accordance with “Saudi Vision 2030.”GEA aspires to develop, establish and organize a competitive infrastructure for entertainment in the Kingdom by cooperating with government and private sectors.


Sharqiah Season: What to expect this weekend?

Updated 21 March 2019
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Sharqiah Season: What to expect this weekend?

RIYADH: A bumper program of entertainment is being lined up in the Eastern Province for the biggest weekend yet of Sharqiah Season.

Concerts, a film festival, and a spectacular air race are just some of the events due to take place in the region as part of attractions for both Saudis and visitors to the Kingdom.

The action gets underway with the fifth annual Saudi Film Festival taking place from March 21 to 26 at the King Abdul Aziz Center for World Culture (Ithra) in Dhahran.

Organized by the Saudi Arabian Society for Culture and Arts (SASCA) in Dammam, in partnership with Ithra, the movie fest will honor Saudi and Gulf cinema figures and include 10 training workshops and 10 seminars.

The festival aims to promote opportunities for Saudi talent in the film industry and flicks from the UAE, Bahrain, Kuwait and Oman will be included among screenings.

All participating films will be shown during the event, and there will be a Golden Palm award for best documentary about a Saudi city and best poster (based on audience voting). A winners’ presentation will take place at the closing ceremony, after which the films will be screened at the Ithra center.

Tickets can be purchased via Ithra’s website, with options for single-day, four-day, and VIP passes.

Meanwhile, the long-awaited Red Bull Air Race demo comes to Dammam from March 21 to 23. The event, organized along with the General Sports Authority, will provide spectators with a warm-up taster for the Red Bull Air Race World Championship 2019 season finale, to be held in Saudi Arabia in November.

The air-racing competition, developed in 2003 and accredited by the Fédération Aéronautique Internationale (FAI), is billed as “the most advanced aerial challenge in existence.”

Using the fastest, most agile, high-performance race planes, pilots fly just meters from the ground and against the clock to complete an obstacle course full of twists and turns. The air spectacular takes off at Dammam Corniche between 1 p.m. and 6 p.m.

Saturday will also see the highly anticipated Color Run come to the South Alkhobar Corniche. The 5-km dash involves participants being doused with colored powder at the end of every kilometer. Runners start dressed all in white and emerge at the end of the run covered in the colors of the General Entertainment Authority’s logo.

The untimed run takes place between 5 a.m. and noon and rest areas offering refreshments and entertainment will be available between stops.

For concert fans the Asharqiah Music Festival will feature performances by major names at Dammam’s Life Park. US rapper Pitbull and Canadian DJ Deadmau5 will take to the stage on March 21, and March 22 will witness performances by Egyptian vocalist Amr Diab, US-Moroccan rapper French Montana, and American singer Akon.

Lovers of regional music are not left out, with appearances by Assala Nasri and Mutrif Al-Mutrif on March 22, and Nabil Shuail and Hatem Al-Iraqi on March 23, all at the Prince Faisal Bin Fahd Center in Al-Qatif.

Sharqiah Season, the first of 11 Saudi seasons of entertainment planned for 2019, will run until the end of the month with more than 83 different events scheduled across nine cities in the region.