Saudi Arabian movie incentives could produce a multibillion-dollar economic windfall

Saudi Arabia’s economy could reap a multibillion-dollar windfall through plans to offer generous incentives to lure global moviemakers to the Kingdom. (AP)
Updated 15 May 2018
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Saudi Arabian movie incentives could produce a multibillion-dollar economic windfall

  • The Kingdom hopes the trickle-down impact of the planned incentives will prepare groundwork for the country
  • The long-term goal is for the Saudi film industry to have an impact on GDP

LONDON/CANNES: Saudi Arabia’s economy could reap a multibillion-dollar windfall through plans to offer generous incentives to lure global moviemakers to the Kingdom.
The Kingdom hopes the trickle-down impact of the planned incentives will prepare groundwork for the country as it pushes through plans to open thousands of cinema screens countrywide.
Ahmad Al-Maziad, the CEO of Saudi Arabia’s General Culture Authority (GCA), said last week that the country will give productions that shoot in Saudi Arabia a 35 percent location rebate. Companies and studios will also get a 50 percent rebate for any local talent they employ. The location rebate is a baseline and could increase.
The long-term goal is for the Saudi film industry to have an impact on GDP.

“This means that we have to have a full industry, you have to have sizeable employment for it to impact GDP,” Al-Maziad said in an interview with Arab News.
He also revealed discussions were underway with studios and film production companies in both Hollywood and Bollywood about potential projects to be filmed in the Kingdom, but declined to give details at this stage.
“There will be some very big productions, from the initial discussions we’re having with them,” he said. “Hopefully, toward September or October we will start.”
The plans are part of a string of business and investment reforms intended to diversify the country’s oil-based economy. Saudi Arabia recently lifted a 35-year ban on cinemas, and theater construction is taking place at a rapid pace throughout the Kingdom.
Chris Berry, professor of film studies at King’s College London, told Arab News: “It’s all about a broader transformation of culture and boosting creative industries — all these sectors converge to diversify the economy. Saudi Arabia is putting things in place to make this happen, but it won’t happen overnight.”
He added that the Kingdom’s 35 percent cash incentive is “not unusual” in a global context, nor is it the highest investment, as it is lower than Fiji (47 percent) and China (40 percent) and on a par with the Netherlands (also 35 percent).
“Governments offer incentives like this because the amount of production work that is bought in and the public relations value makes it worthwhile,” he added.

Saudi Arabia has already made a decision to increase its tourism outside Hajj visitors, so it is hoping this new incentive will allow filmmakers to build an image of what the country looks like to outsiders.

Chris Berry, Professor of Film Studies at King's College London

“Saudi Arabia has already made a decision to increase its tourism outside Hajj visitors, so it is hoping this new incentive will allow filmmakers to build an image of what the country looks like to outsiders. At the moment, much of the world probably thinks that Saudi Arabia is just sand … Featuring in a Hollywood blockbuster is a great way of building an image.”
By luring international acting and production talent to the country, the government aims to add new skills to Saudi Arabia’s indigenous talent pool, the professor said.
Last week Al-Maziad also announced a national grant program for Saudi talent with training programs and education initiatives including partnerships with the University of Southern California, independent filmmaker champion Film Independent and Studio School in Los Angeles as well as French state film school La Femis and Paris animation school Les Gobelins.
However, Berry said that for its film ambitions to progress, the Kingdom also needs to focus on building its own film schools and general arts education, as well as creating regional film bodies.
The creation of a fully-fledged film and TV eco-system could spur young Saudis to emulate the success of directors such as Haifaa Al-Mansour, the first female Saudi filmmaker, whose 2012 drama “Wadjda” was nominated as Best Foreign Film at the 2014 BAFTA Awards in the UK, Berry said.


Trump complained to Twitter CEO about lost followers -source

Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey (L) and U.S. President Donald Trump. (REUTERS)
Updated 24 April 2019
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Trump complained to Twitter CEO about lost followers -source

  • Reuters reported in 2016 Trump had been angry with Twitter because it had rejected an advertising deal with his campaign

WASHINGTON: US President Donald Trump met with Twitter Inc’s Chief Executive Jack Dorsey on Tuesday and spent a significant time questioning him about why he has lost some Twitter followers, a person briefed on the matter said.
The meeting, which was organized by the White House last week, came hours after Trump again attacked the social media company over his claims it is biased against conservatives.
“Great meeting this afternoon at the @WhiteHouse with @Jack from @Twitter. Lots of subjects discussed regarding their platform, and the world of social media in general. Look forward to keeping an open dialogue!” Trump tweeted, posting a photo of Dorsey and others with him in the Oval Office.
Earlier on Tuesday, Trump suggested Twitter was biased against him without providing evidence. He wrote on Twitter that the company does not “treat me well as a Republican. Very discriminatory.”
Twitter said in a statement Dorsey had a “constructive meeting with the president of the United States today at the president’s invitation. They discussed Twitter’s commitment to protecting the health of the public conversation ahead of the 2020 US elections and efforts underway to respond to the opioid crisis.”
Unlike other major US tech company executives, Dorsey had not previously met with Trump.
He was not invited to a December 2016 meeting with president-elect Trump that featured other major tech companies. Reuters reported in 2016 Trump had been angry with Twitter because it had rejected an advertising deal with his campaign.
Trump has been upset about losing followers.
In October, Trump wrote that “Twitter has removed many people from my account and, more importantly, they have seemingly done something that makes it much harder to join — they have stifled growth to a point where it is obvious to all. A few weeks ago it was a Rocket Ship, now it is a Blimp! Total Bias?“
Any reduction is likely the result of Twitter’s recent moves to remove millions of suspicious accounts after it and other social media services were used in misinformation campaigns attempting to influence voters in the 2016 US presidential race and other elections, Reuters reported in October.
Shares in Twitter jumped 13 percent on Tuesday after it reported quarterly revenue above analyst estimates, which executives said was the result of weeding out spam and abusive posts and targeting ads better.
Trump lost 204,000, or 0.4 percent, of his 53.4 million followers in July when Twitter started its purge of suspicious accounts, according to social media data firm Keyhole.
Trump has one of the most-followed accounts on Twitter. But the president and Republicans in Congress have repeatedly criticized the company and its social media competitors for what they have called bias against conservatives, something Twitter denies.
Democratic US Senator Mazie Hirono said earlier this month “we cannot allow the Republican party to harass tech companies into weakening content moderation policies that already fail to remove hateful, dangerous and misleading content.”
Carlos Monje, Twitter’s public policy director, said at a Senate hearing earlier this month the site “does not use political viewpoints, perspectives or party affiliation to make any decisions, whether related to automatically ranking content on our service or how we develop or enforce our rules.”