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
0

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.


MBC Group inks deal with China’s National Radio and Television Administration

The agreement was signed at MBC Group’s headquarters in Dubai. (Supplied)
Updated 15 November 2018
0

MBC Group inks deal with China’s National Radio and Television Administration

  • The deal will includ dubbed television programs from both territories, as well as joint productions
  • The digital media sector is of utmost importance to us: Al Ibrahim

JEDDAH: MBC Group has signed a three-year memorandum of understanding (MOU) with China’s National Radio and Television Administration (NRTA) on Wednesday.
The MoU seeks to develop traditional and digital media content; sharing TV and film production expertise and competencies; and promoting and developing the human resource sector.
The strategic agreement will comprise media content in all its forms, including dubbed television programs from both territories, as well as joint productions.
The signing ceremony took place at MBC Group’s headquarters in Dubai, United Arab Emirates, in the presence of MBC Group Chairman Sheikh Waleed Bin Ibrahim Al Ibrahim; Vice Chairman Ali Al-Hedeithy, and CEO Sam Barnett. Representing NRTA was Gao Jianmin, Deputy Minister of Information at NRTA, as well as a number of senior executives and consultants.
Al Ibrahim said: “The National Radio and Television Administration aims to develop a comprehensive media environment that simulates its peers from the world's largest companies, in terms of efficiency, performance, innovation, research and development, as well as other areas of growth and development.”
In terms of digital media, the agreement will see MBC showcasing Chinese films dubbed and translated into Arabic, with NRTA tailoring MBC content for Chinese audiences.
“The digital media sector is of utmost importance to us; digital platforms are now a necessity for the growth of any media organization in the region and the world. Investing in the event industry and in human capital is as crucial as investing in media content, so we are now sharing our experiences in these sectors with our partners in China,” Al Ibrahim said.
Jianmin stated: “We are pleased to announce today this strategic cooperation with MBC in the context of the Belt and Road Initiative. MBC has established over the years the prime broadcasting platform across the Middle East and North Africa region and we believe our partnership will support the cultural cooperation and content sharing across our regions.
“We are looking forward to a successful cooperation that will represent one more milestone on the long history of exchanges between China and the Middle East.”
The agreement also includes the attendance and participation of both parties in events and festivals hosted by either party. For example, this includes the participation of MBC in the China-Arab Cooperation Forum in Radio and Television, in addition to other television and film festivals held in China. Meanwhile, MBC Group will host NRTA at media, film, television and festival events in the region.
Resourcing and the human development sector is at the heart of this agreement, focusing on the exchange of expertise through joint seminars, courses and training programs aimed at honing the human talent of both parties.