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

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.


Saudi Arabia’s AlUla provides a perfect ‘Corner of the Earth’ for Jamiroquai to shine

Updated 25 January 2020

Saudi Arabia’s AlUla provides a perfect ‘Corner of the Earth’ for Jamiroquai to shine

  • “I was transported into a completely different world”: Jay Kay

ALULA: British band Jamiroquai thrilled a delighted audience at Maraya Concert Hall in Saudi Arabia on Friday night during a show packed with hits.

In a first for a venue more used to hosting opera and classical concerts, the British funk/acid jazz outfit had fans dancing along to the music.

The show, at the distinctive, mirror-covered concert hall in historic AlUla, was part of the second Winter at Tantora festival. It opened with “Shake It On,” followed by the hit singles “Little L,” “Alright,” and “Space Cowboy.” By this time the crowd was well and truly warmed up, and “Use the Force” got them on their feet.

“The song seemed to resonate with everyone” Jay Kay told Arab News in an exclusive interview after the show.

During the gig, Kay dedicated the 2002 song “Corner of the Earth” to AlUla, which he described as a “magical and wonderful place, which is absolutely stunning.” The opportunity to perform there was “an honor and privilege” he added. He also thanked “Crown Prince Mohammad Bin Salman for his vision, and Prince Badr for making this happen and the great hospitality.”

After a further selection of singles and album tracks, the show ended on a high with a quartet of hits — “Cosmic Girl,” “Virtual Insanity,” “Canned Heat” and “Lovefoolosophy.”

Kay praised the Maraya Concert Hall as “a brilliant place to play.” He admitted that initially he was a little worried when he saw it because he was under the impression it would be an outdoor venue. However, any concerns he had were gone by the time the first sound check was done.

“I was transported into a completely different world; the acoustics were unbelievable, like being in a German concert hall,” he said. “It is obviously very well thought out and that’s what makes it so good. The sound was fabulous — I never looked at my sound guy once.”

Jamiroquai’s music videos often feature Kay in super cars, of which he owns many, and he revealed that he would love to shoot such a promo in AlUla.

“In reality, I’m desperate to get in one of the dune buggies, and would kill to have a (Ariel) Nomad and have a go in one in AlUla, where it’s supposed to be driven, for a day or five and dune bash, which is such a rare thing for us in England,” he said.

The singer also said he wants to bring his family to AlUla, which has become a hub for culture and creativity in Saudi Arabia.

“I would like to come out with my family and my youngest, who is called Talula, so hopefully we can have Talula come to AlUla, which would be wonderful,” said Kay.

He added that he was looking forward to exploring the area on Saturday, before leaving the country, but added: “I’m sure you can never have enough time to see everything there is to see.”