Saudi Arabia show ‘Black Panther’ to mark cinema opening

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File photo showing a theatre audience in Saudi Arabia. (Reuters)
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Flyer featuring details of the event. (Courtesy of @CGCSaudi)
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Photo showing preparations underway for the return of cinemas to Saudi Arabia, Apr 18, 2018. (AN, Ziyad Al-Arfaj)
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Photo showing preparations underway for the return of cinemas to Saudi Arabia, Apr 18, 2018. (AN, Ziyad Al-Arfaj)
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Photo showing preparations underway for the return of cinemas to Saudi Arabia, Apr 18, 2018. (AN, Ziyad Al-Arfaj)
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Photo showing preparations underway for the return of cinemas to Saudi Arabia, Apr 18, 2018. (AN, Ziyad Al-Arfaj)
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Photo showing preparations underway for the return of cinemas to Saudi Arabia, Apr 18, 2018. (AN, Ziyad Al-Arfaj)
Updated 19 April 2018
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Saudi Arabia show ‘Black Panther’ to mark cinema opening

  • Invitation only screening of 'Black Panther' herald return of cinema to Saudi Arabia
  • 'This is a landmark moment in the transformation of Saudi Arabia into a more vibrant economy and society,” Saudi Arabia Culture Minister said

RIYADH: Saudi Arabia held a private screening Wednesday of the Hollywood blockbuster “Black Panther” to herald the launch of movie theaters in the kingdom that are expected to open to the public as early as next month.
Authorities planned an invitation-only screening of the movie in a concert hall converted into a cinema complex in the capital, Riyadh. The screening will be followed by a rush to build movie theaters in major cities.

The Development and Investment Entertainment Company (DIEC), a wholly owned subsidiary of Saudi Arabia’s Public Investment Fund (PIF), will oversee 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. 

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.” 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.” The Saudi government has dubbed Wednesday’s event as “the showing of the first commercial film in the kingdom after more than 35 years.”

“This is a landmark moment in the transformation of Saudi Arabia into a more vibrant economy and society,” Saudi Minister of Culture and Information Awwad Alawwad said in statement. It’s a stark reversal for a country where public movie screenings were banned in the 1980’s during a wave of conservativism that swept Saudi Arabia then.

The move to open movie theaters in Saudi comes as part of Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Salman efforts to reform various aspect of Saudi Arabia’s political, economic and social life. The crown prince is behind measures such as lifting a ban on women driving that will go into effect this summer, and bringing back concerts and other forms of entertainment to satiate the desires of the country’s majority young population. 

The social push by Prince Mohammed is part of his so-called Vision 2030, a blueprint for the country that aims to boost local spending and create jobs amid sustained lower oil prices. The Saudi government projects that the opening of movie theaters will contribute more than 90 billion riyals ($24 billion) to the economy and create more than 30,000 jobs by 2030. The kingdom says there will be 300 cinemas with around 2,000 screens built by 2030.
Over the past several years, Saudi Arabia has gradually been loosening restrictions on movie screenings, with local film festivals and screenings in makeshift theaters. For the most part, though, Saudis who wanted to watch a film in a movie theater would have to drive to nearby Bahrain or the United Arab Emirates for weekend trips to the cinema.


Exclusive: UAE mogul Khalaf Al-Habtoor calls for a boycott of US firms, execs. who pulled out of Saudi investment summit

Updated 15 October 2018
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Exclusive: UAE mogul Khalaf Al-Habtoor calls for a boycott of US firms, execs. who pulled out of Saudi investment summit

JEDDAH: In an Op-Ed column written exclusively for Arab News, UAE business tycoon Khalaf Ahmad Al-Habtoor has called for an Arab boycott of US companies and executives who have pulled out of Saudi Arabia’s upcoming Future Investment Initiative (FII) summit, or decided to freeze ongoing dealings with the Kingdom. 
A number of media companies, including Bloomberg, New York Times, CNN and CNBC have announced pulling out of the partnerships with the FII summit happening on Oct. 28 in Riyadh. This was in the aftermath of the mysterious disappearance of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi, more than 10 days ago, who was last seen entering the Saudi consulate in Istanbul. 
Saudi Arabia has denied any involvement with his disappearance, and has sent a team to assist Turkish investigators to find out what happened to the Saudi. 
Khashoggi’s vanishing has caused many to blame Riyadh, given he had recently become a vocal critic of its leadership in a number of columns for The Washington Post, while living in the  US. 
Pulling out of the FII media partnerships, or executives, such as Uber’s Dara Khosrowshahi  cancelling their attendance, is unjustified, argued Habtoor, considering the investigation into the journalist’s whereabouts is ongoing.
The Emirati businessman also takes on London-based Virgin Group founder Richard Branson who suspended his negotiations on tourism projects in Saudi Arabia as well as discussions with the country’s Public Investment Fund.
“The Saudis’ Gulf Cooperation Council allies, as well as Egypt and Jordan, must stand shoulder to shoulder with Riyadh to show those companies they are not welcome to operate within our borders. They should be boycotted. Together we must prove we will not be bullied or else, mark my words, once they have finished kicking the Kingdom, we will be next in line. Now is the time to prove our loyalty and transparency toward each other,” the businessman said.
Al-Habtoor said he was “shocked” that the US Congress is pressurizing President Donald Trump to impose sanctions on one of America’s closest allies in the Middle East when the truth has not even been determined. He also condemned US media, government officials and lawmakers for rushing to judgement on an active investigation. 
“Last week, Saudi basked in America’s friendship. A single individual goes off the radar and Riyadh is targeted with warnings and threats from America’s political, financial and business sectors. Considering that the investigation is not yet over, if this is not gross overkill, then what is?” He said.