‘Cinema Build KSA Forum’ aims to boost Saudi entertainment sector

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Badr Al Zahrani, CEO of the General Commission for Audiovisual Media (GCAM), opening the Cinema Build KSA Forum in Riyadh on April 14, 2019. (Supplied photo)
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Badr Al Zahrani, CEO of the General Commission for Audiovisual Media (GCAM), speaking at the opening the Cinema Build KSA Forum in Riyadh on April 14, 2019. (Supplied photo)
Updated 14 April 2019

‘Cinema Build KSA Forum’ aims to boost Saudi entertainment sector

  • Forum attracts 300 attendees, 50 speakers, and exhibitors from 30 countries 
  • SR267 billion to build suitable infrastructure for entertainment across the Kingdom

RIYADH: The General Authority for Entertainment has indicated that the entertainment sector needs SR267 billion to build suitable infrastructure for entertainment across the Kingdom, with expected investments in the sector to reach SR18 billion annually, according to a 2018 report from Flanders Investment and Trade.

Vox Cinemas, a subsidiary of UAE-based Majid Al Futtaim, was awarded the second license to open cinemas in the Kingdom. The company also plans to invest SR2 billion in 600 screens over the next five years, which Saudi officials estimate will bring the total number of cinemas to 350 and the number of screens to 2,500 by 2030.

The first movie theater opened in Riyadh on April 18, 2018, and about 30 movie theaters are to be opened in 15 cities around the Kingdom within five years. The anticipated audience will visit 300 cinemas with more than 2,000 screens in the Kingdom by 2030 and the sector is forecast to be worth about $1 billion over the next few years.

The Cinema Build KSA Forum, in partnership with the General Commission of Audiovisual Media (GCAM), the forum’s government supporting partner, attracted more than 300 attendees and KSA potential market-stakeholders from 30 countries in addition to more than 25 exhibitors for two days.

The sessions — led by 25 prominent international speakers and industry experts — discussed investment opportunities, business collaborations and future partnerships, cinema industry competitiveness through design and innovative theming, and redesigning existing entertainment hubs such as shopping malls to include cinemas.

Organized by  Eyes  of Cities in collaborationwith  Great Minds Event Management, Cinema Build KSA Forum has brought together stakeholders across the design, construction and technology sectors to discuss the latest trends and techniques  of building  world-class cinemas in the Kingdom. The event revealed  a range of new building solutions and equipment used in developing future cinemas, multiplexes and malls to serve as a key contributor to the industry.     

With a population of more than 32 million, the majority of whom are under the age of 30, Saudis spend about $30 billion annually on tourism and entertainment outside the Kingdom, which makes movie theaters open to a domestic market expected to be worth up to $1 billion in annual box-office sales by 2030.

On the sidelines of the forum, Sunil Puthan Veettil, managing director of Carnival Cinemas, said: “Carnival envisions to operate around 300-plus screens over the next five years in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. Our mission is to take good-quality movie-watching experience close to the people in the country. For this, we have made a study of all the provinces and identified several locations, subject to approval. Our idea is to move to all these provinces to set up entertainment centers.”

At the end of the first day, forum organizers held an award ceremony where Dr. Kamel Mohamed, CEO of East Delta Saudi, presented a memento to GCAM’s CEO Badr Al Zahrani to honor his efforts in supporting the forum. Dr. Kamel also presented mementos of appreciation to VOX, Carnival, Empire, Cinepolis, MUVI (Fawaz Alhokair) in recognition of their efforts to develop the cinema sector in the Kingdom. Eyes of Riyadh received a memento for supporting Great Minds Event Management’s efforts in marketing the forum.

Leila Masinaei, managing partner at Great Minds Event Management, said: “The world is witnessing Saudi Arabia’s confident steps toward an unprecedented era of social and economic reforms. The lifting of the cinema ban opens doors to untrodden grounds for investment and lucrative revenue streams for the Kingdom and entertainment sector stakeholders.

“We at Great Minds Events’ envisioned and have foreseen the massive growth opportunities in the entertainment sector in KSA; hence we are organizing Cinema Build KSA Forum to represent a global platform and bring (together) key entertainment project owners, government decision-makers, regional and international retail developers, family entertainment centers developers and cinemas. Consequently, Cinema Build KSA invites all stakeholders to explore the opportunities in the entertainment sector, as reports expect at least 300 cinemas, in addition to numerous family entertainment centers, to be built by 2030.”

Partnering with Cinema Build KSA were a number of  high-profile entities in the field  of entertainment, cinema constructions and technology such as VOX, Cinepolis, AMC, Empire, Carnival, Fawaz Alhokair Group, MUVI Cinemas, Jeddah Park, Compass Project Management, TK Architects, & Design Novel Architecture.

‘The Sky is Pink’: Priyanka Chopra disappoints, Zaira Wasim shines

Farhan Akhtar and Priyanka Chopra Jonas star in the film. (AFP)
Updated 13 October 2019

‘The Sky is Pink’: Priyanka Chopra disappoints, Zaira Wasim shines

CHENNAI: Director Shonali Bose may well be termed the “mistress of misery.” Her characters, invariably women, have been suffering souls.

Whether it be in “Amu,” set in the aftermath of the 1984 anti-Sikh riots, or “Margarita with a Straw” and its story of a teenager with cerebral palsy, Bose’s protagonists have been largely unhappy.

Her latest feature, “The Sky is Pink” — unnecessarily long at 159 minutes — is based on the real-life tale of a girl who dies at an early age from complications arising out of an immune-deficiency illness. Aisha (Zaira Wasim) tells us not only her own sad story, but also that of her parents, Aditi (Priyanka Chopra Jonas) and Niren (Farhan Akhtar).

Priyanka Chopra Jonas and Farhan Akhtar attended "The Sky Is Pink" premiere during the 2019 Toronto International Film Festival. (AFP)

When Aditi falls pregnant, she has already lost a child to the disease, but religious compulsion pushes her to go ahead. Predictably, the baby girl, Aisha, develops the same problem. The parents, who live in New Delhi, rush her to London. Since they cannot afford the treatment, which involves a bone-marrow transplant, Niren broadcasts a plea from a radio station that raises a large amount of money.

But years later, the bubbly Aisha falls seriously ill, and the effect of her decline on her brother, Ishan (Rohit Saraf), and her parents makes up rest of the plot.

“The Sky is Pink” essentially explores the way marriages fall apart after a child gets sick. But Bose weaves into this storyline several distracting features, including Ishan’s budding love affair, which is rocked every time there is crisis in Aisha's life.

Bose’s film could be compared to Mehdi M. Barsaoui’s debut, “A Son.” Set in Tunisia in 2011 after the “Jasmine Revolution,” it also deals with a couple’s turmoil after their son is shot and wounded by a sniper. Barsaoui intelligently scripts how the couple crack under the pressure and their relationship begins to totter. There is not a single scene that is at odds with the plot.

In contrast, “The Sky is Pink” digresses into marital jealousy and a string of dramatically charged moments, diluting the core theme.

Akhtar, who is an excellent actor, seems out of sorts in this setting, while Chopra Jonas fails to convey a mother’s emotional pain and seems far too dolled up to adequately portray a character in torment. In fact, the only high point is the fine acting by Wasim.