KSA looks forward to ‘best entertainment year ever’

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Updated 23 February 2018

KSA looks forward to ‘best entertainment year ever’

RIYADH: The General Entertainment Authority (GEA) will host an unprecedented number of events throughout the Kingdom this year, with more than 5,000 live shows, festivals and concerts planned across 56 cities.
The 2018 entertainment calendar will feature the most diverse line-up of live entertainment ever seen in Saudi Arabia, ranging from musicals and family shows 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 attended by Ahmed Al-Khatib, chairman of the board, and Faisal Bafarat, GEA’s CEO.
Saudi Arabia will invest $64 billion in its entertainment sector in the coming decade, an official said on Thursday, as the Kingdom pursues a program of social and economic reforms.
Al-Khatib said the money will come from both the government and the private sector.
He said that 500 companies have registered to organize entertainment events in the coming year.
The GEA is accelerating plans to provide rich and diverse entertainment options and experiences for people in all parts of Saudi Arabia to enjoy. “The authority 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 said.
Al-Khatib told the audience: “Our aim today is to speak of the events that will take place in the coming year.” He commended the media and its help in spreading the word: “We are an orchestra, we have done nothing, you have done everything (the media). All I can say is that we have achieved a global goal of quality that competes with London and New York.”
He revealed that the entertainment sector needs SR267 billion ($71 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 SR18 billion per year to Saudi Arabia’s GDP, with consumer spending estimated to reach SR36 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 said.
GEA was first announced in May 2016, and has grown quickly since then.
“This year will witness many exciting events that will take place all over Saudi for the whole family to enjoy,” said Al-Khatib.
“We took this risk to work with media, with all trust. We work together and we help each other. The third-largest industry in Saudi is entertainment and we want to expand it.
“For the first time in the country, a Yanni concert took place in Dharan and 10 percent of the audiences were Bahrainis; the roles have been reversed and we witnessed our side of the bridge being trafficked and not the other way around, for they came to us. I promise you we will see more of this in the future — Emirates, Kuwait, everyone,” he said.
“In the year of 2030, I promise you this will continue and we will be in the top 10 country destinations for entertainment.”
Al-Khatib said many events and theme parks are planned. “We have the likes of Gideya, the largest theme park in the world, and Six Flags, which is under construction. We will continue to improve the infrastructure to build theses theme parks. We know what we want, we have the support from our leaders.
“Today we are organized and focused that Saudis stand on their own feet.”
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.”
Speaking to Arab News after the event the GEA CEO said.” The events are very extensive, we will not be focusing on one aspect, but will cover all aspects of entertainment that include theme parks, museums, entertainment centers, live shows, sports events, theaters, cinemas, festival and popups.”
“We have, in total more than 5,000 events, both local and international, and on every weekend, we have one big event in one of the big cities in the Kingdom,” Bafarat noted.
He added that the local events too will have some international elements, so if you have a local street festival, you will find some international and regional act into it.
In a reply on how far international shows organized last year were helpful in grooming local talents and local entertainment sector, he said, it was indeed very helpful, earlier global actors were not taking us seriously saying Saudi market is not ready for us to come and stage the show, now we have people knocking the door saying, “we want to bring the show to Saudi.”
Bafarat said: “Our aim is to have a huge impact on our economy, provide jobs, and support medium and small companies.”
He 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.
“Last year was a benchmark for us, this year it will be 10 times better,” he said. “This is a team effort, we thank all the sectors that have participated.
“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 said.
After their speeches, an illusionist entertained the audience with magic tricks.
Speaking to Arab News, Majid Al-Hokair, who heads the Committee for Tourism, Events and Entertainment at the Riyadh Chamber, said: “These are very positive changes taking place in the Kingdom with the GEA at the helm of affair.
“Thanks to the GEA for bringing these programs home. The authority is inspired to develop, establish and organize a competitive infrastructure for entertainment in the Kingdom.”
The GEA chairman and CEO also made awards to events organized last year. The winners in different categories include “Luxury KSA” as the best event with local content, “Comic Con” as the best international event with local flavor and “iLuminate” as the best event for live entertainment.
In 2017, the GEA hosted more than 2,200 events attended by 8.2 million people.

Global stars shine at Saudi leisure forum

Updated 14 October 2019

Global stars shine at Saudi leisure forum

  • “It (Saudi Movies) will bring Saudis closer to the world and the world closer to Saudi,” Shahrukh Khan 

RIYADH: Saudi Arabia took another step toward establishing its place on the global entertainment map with a major industry event in Riyadh on Sunday.

The Joy Forum19 brought together entertainment promoters and pioneers from around the world, along with global stars such as Indian actor and film producer Shah Rukh Khan; Hong Kong martial artist, actor, film director Jackie Chan and Belgian actor and martial artist Jean-Claude Van Damme.

The event was organized by the General Entertainment Authority (GEA), which signed several important agreements on the day, including a financing guarantee program for small and medium-sized enterprises.

Participants are ushered in on the first day of the Joy Forum19 event in Riyadh. (AN photo by Noor Nugali)

“Our message is for both, locally and internationally. Me and my generation suffered a lot, we had lots of time on our hands,” GEA chairman Turki Al-Sheikh said at the event.

“Today you are witnessing things we have never had in Saudi Arabia. We have 300,000 visitors to our events, and our sales have hit 80 percent.

“Saudi Arabia has never seen anything like Riyadh Season, we have over 400 sponsors, which is unprecedented.”

Al-Sheikh announced that the authority had named a stadium after singer Mohammed Abdo, the “Artist of Arabs,” and another after Abu Baker Salim, the father of Khaleeji music. 

READ MORE: Three MoUs signed at opening day of Joy Forum19 in Riyadh

Drunken master

The actors expressed what it meant to be movie stars and how wide-reaching their influence could be.

Jackie Chan recalled that when he was a new actor, he often acted like a drunken fighter until he realized that he has a responsibility towards younger fans. 

Jackie Chan: no longer a "drunken master". (AN photo by Basheer Saleh)

“All over the world I keep drinking and fighting (in films).  I realized that I made drunken master cool — so I stopped,” he said. One of Chan's most popular movies was the 1978 action comedy martial arts film "Drunken Master".

“When you’re 20 you don’t have this inner thought — anything that makes the audience laugh you do, but later on especially (when I went) to Africa so many years ago — they started doing the drunken style — the children look up to me. So, I realized we have a responsibility to the children so all those years I corrected those actions: no dirty comedy words or action,” he said.

He attributed his awareness in being responsible for the content he produces to the fans. “I’m really thankful to the fans in making me a good actor.”

Chan spoke about his experience in acting martial arts in both the United States and Asia. “I realized we have two different markets one for America another for Asia. They are totally two different things.”

The safety measures the US takes for stunts is very impeccable making sure of the wellbeing of the actor comes first. However, in Asia it’s a different story, “In Asia when I want to do a stunt, I roll, jump (and then go to the) hospital, he said laughingly.

“It’s so difficult sometimes in the USA so many rules- Jackie Chan movies: NO RULES!” he said and received applause from the audience.


Good start

Jean Claude Van Damme gave a shout out and a big thank you to all his “brother and sisters from Saudi Arabia,” He said he got a royal treatment fit for “Kings and Queens”. He went on to reveal that his hotel room at the Ritz Carlton Riyadh was so big he could easily “roller-skate” in it.

Jean Claude Van Damme: "Let's do a movie together". (AN photo by Basheer Saleh)

“I’m honored to be invited here. I know it’s your first time to do this event, but I know it will have a very bright future and I hope next year you will invite more people,” he said.

He said he may not be a “good talker” but expressed his joy at being in Saudi Arabia saying. “I’m happy to be here and I hope to have more connection later with the audience.”

Van Damme remarked how that in every country in the world you have treasure actors and movies with different cultures, “In the Middle East I don’t know what the taste will be, but I know they love American, Asian and Indian movies. They have a broad taste. (Saudi Arabia) should do a movie with all of us together!”


Crossing barriers

Sharukh Khan emphasized the importance of every country telling their story through movies; “As long as we are telling the story in whatever language it doesn’t matter. Cinema crosses all barriers.”

Shahrukh Khan: "I'd audition for a Saudi movie". (AN photo by Noor Nugali)

With the opening of Saudi Arabia to the world and Cinemas, he said, “I can’t wait to talk about the Saudi films...It will bring Saudis closer to the world and the world closer to Saudi.”

“The stories that you tell should talk about goodness and people should be engaged with the content and it should bring them together. People want to laugh and sadly have to cry, to be entertained and to feel.”

Sharukh noted that Saudi Arabia has started to make movies and he’s watched the King Faisal movie, "Born a King". 

“You’ll always find gems in all movie industries and I think there’s are gems in Saudi and as a matter of fact one of the things I’d like to do is audition for a Saudi movie … Please give me an opportunity!” he said, eliciting a thunderous applause from the audience.

Red carpet

Abdulaziz AlMuzaini, co-founder and CEO of the Saudi Arabian Myrkott Animation Studio; gave a heartfelt thanks full of gratitude to King Salman and the Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, saying: “If it wasn’t for them, I wouldn’t have dreamed of this moment or this panel.”

Some of the celebrities invited to the event walk the red carpet. (AN photo by Basheer Saleh)

Lebanese actor Wahid Jalal, who was the voice of Long John Silver in Treasure Island, came onstage for the opening of the event. “Children love heroes and they try to imitate them,” he said. 

He also delighted the crowd by performing Silver’s famous laugh.

Some of the celebrities who walked down the red carpet were American actor Jason Momoa, star of Aquaman; Amr Adeeb, Balqis Fathi, Yusra, Boosy Shalabi, Lojien and Aseel Omran, Mohammed Hamaki, Nawal AlZoghbi, Talal Salama, Ahlam Al-Shamsi, Hussain AlJismi, Suad Abdulla, Ibrahem Alharbi, Tariq Alali and Abdulnaser Darweesh.

The gala dinner hosted 500 guests and was a private event, but the red carpet captured the essence of where Saudi is moving to culturally.