IMAX announces plans to produce films in Saudi Arabia

IMAX Richard Gelfond, chief executive officer of Imax Corp stated that it plans to help develop both narrative documentaries as well as international blockbuster co-productions within the Kingdom. (Getty images)
Updated 12 May 2018
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IMAX announces plans to produce films in Saudi Arabia

  • IMAX intends to build 20 to 30 IMAX theaters in Saudi Arabia in the coming years.
  • CEO Richard Gelfond stated that it plans to help develop both narrative documentaries as well as international blockbuster co-productions within the Kingdom.

CANNES: Saudi Arabia’s General Culture Authority and the IMAX Corporation announced Saturday morning at the Saudi pavilion at the 71st Cannes Film Festival their plans to develop IMAX-format films to be produced within Saudi Arabia. IMAX, which works both in film production and theaters, also told Arab News that it intends to build 20 to 30 IMAX theaters in Saudi Arabia in the coming years.
In an exclusive interview with Arab News, IMAX CEO Richard Gelfond stated that it plans to help develop both narrative documentaries as well as international blockbuster co-productions within the Kingdom, with the intention of developing the infrastructure of film in Saudi Arabia as well as to tell the country's story both to the Saudi people and the world.
“I think we’ll probably start with a documentary project, but one of the great things about IMAX is that it takes people where they could never go, whether it’s the bottom of the ocean, whether it’s outer space, that’s what IMAX does at its best. I think we’ll try to find a project involving Saudi Arabia where we can show people in Saudi Arabia educationally how beautiful their own country is and what they can learn about it, as well as export it to other IMAX theaters to share it with the rest of the world,” Gelfond said.
Ahmad Al-Maziad, CEO of the General Culture Authority, told Arab News that the intention is to have IMAX utilized across the board, from major features to documentaries to international productions filming within Saudi Arabia.
“IMAX is a brand, and it’s a brand of quality. It’s a testament to what we need and want to do at GCA. I think we want to go for something that’s higher-end quality. We want to tell our own stories. What better to use the best quality and the best screens to develop a script, which might look like a documentary, but at the end of the day it’s a story. You take a historical journey through the landscape of Saudi, telling an amazing story from a couple thousand years ago. With that you’re creating a scripted documentary that showcases both the storytelling as well as the landscape that we have in Saudi Arabia,” said Al-Maziad.
IMAX intends to hire as much Saudi talent as possible on its projects within Saudi, as its intention is to work with the General Culture Authority to develop the landscape from the bottom up. At the festival on Friday, the GCA announced plans to offer a rebate of at least 35 per cent for foreign productions filmed within the country and 50 per cent of all money spent hiring Saudi talent.
“I think we have to decide on the first project and see what the scope is, but the idea would be to use Saudi talent in large part. It’s not just about watching one movie or three movies, it’s how do you develop the industry. We’ve been in business for 50 years and we’ve done that in other places, most notably in China. We really felt a stake there in developing the film infrastructure in the country, and we feel a similar stake to doing the same thing Saudi,” said Gelfond.
IMAX opened its first IMAX screen through Vox Cinemas in Riyadh, beginning with the release of Marvel’s "Avengers: Infinity War," which has sold out every showing, according to Gelfond. The plan is to develop more theaters throughout Saudi Arabia both with Majid Al Futtaim’s Vox Cinemas as well as AMC Cinemas, which are also planning to open throughout Saudi Arabia.
“AMC is our largest partner in the world, and we’re in discussions what AMC about a number of locations throughout Saudi Arabia. I’m going there next week, Wednesday and Thursday, for other discussions. We just want to do the best entertainment possible, world class, at the best locations possible. That will develop over time,” said Gelfond.
Gelfond said it is not decided how many of the planned 20 to 30 theaters will be Vox, and how many will be AMC, as it is currently in discussions with both parties now.
“I think it’s a very exciting opportunity. IMAX in the Middle East, we have 22 theaters open today, and some are incredible like at the Mall of the Emirates, and some are in more developing places like Jordan, Egypt and Lebanon. People, when they think of IMAX, they think of it as the busiest city and the biggest corner, but the goal is to bring the best cinema experience not only to rich people in big cities, but to a variety of people throughout the country. We’ve done that in the region, and I look forward to doing things in Saudi Arabia.”


Fun in the family zone at Ad Diriyah E-Prix ​

Updated 4 min 45 sec ago
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Fun in the family zone at Ad Diriyah E-Prix ​

  • On offer were physically challenging activities such as a zipline, a net climbing wall, and a horse corral for the younger kids
  • At the heart of the park was an area dedicated to local artists and vendors, with everything from traditional foods to handmade soaps to artwork and clothing on display

RIYADH: A horse corral, a maze and a virtual reality biking station were some of the attractions on offer at the family zone at the E-Prix event being held at the Ad Diriyah UNESCO world heritage site near the capital Riyadh.
The event, which culminates Saturday with Formula E Championship street racing, is the first of its kind to be held in the region. 
It brings together world class entertainment — from artists including David Guetta and Amr Diab — and cultural activities.



“The amount of effort that must have gone into setting this up is extraordinary,” said visitor Abla Qanaq. “The variety of options is almost overwhelming. I’m not even sure where I want to start.”
People in the VIP Hospitality Section had the opportunity to ride camels, sample local staples of dates and Arabic coffee, and experience local customs such as traditional wedding marches.
“I’m glad they realized the importance of including a local touch in an event like this,” said visitor Alaa Al Dawsari. “Especially with so many foreigners coming from all over the world. It’s amazing that we were able to present Saudi Arabia like this.”
The family zone also featured an area dedicated to local artisans and vendors, with everything from traditional food to handmade soap and clothing on display. The Al Bujairi section hosts exhibitions and live music.