VOX Cinemas bringing Saudi stories to film

A Saudi cinema-goer has her temperature taken as she wears a colored face masks to help curb the spread of the coronavirus,  at VOX Cinema hall in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, June 26, 2020. (AP)
A Saudi cinema-goer has her temperature taken as she wears a colored face masks to help curb the spread of the coronavirus, at VOX Cinema hall in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, June 26, 2020. (AP)
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Updated 08 December 2021

VOX Cinemas bringing Saudi stories to film

A Saudi cinema-goer has her temperature taken as she wears a colored face masks to help curb the spread of the coronavirus,  at VOX Cinema hall in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, June 26, 2020. (AP)
  • Majid Al Futtaim backing new wave of talent, KSA chief says

JEDDAH: With more than 130 films set to be screened at the Red Sea International Film Festival, VOX Cinemas are on a mission to support and promote local films the best way they can.

The Red Sea International Film Festival kicked off its festivities at Jeddah’s UNESCO World Heritage Site old town, Al-Balad, on Dec. 6. It will run until Dec. 15, in partnership with VOX Cinemas and others.

VOX Cinemas will screen 138 feature films and shorts from 67 countries in 34 languages. The content was produced by established and emerging talent, with fans, film enthusiasts, filmmakers and actors in attendance for many of the films.

A slate of new Saudi films — 27 from an exciting wave of Saudi filmmakers — will be shown alongside the best of contemporary international cinema.

“We’re very proud to be partners of this festival, especially since this has been the first international Red Sea Film Festival taking place in Jeddah in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia,” Toni El Massih, managing director of VOX Cinemas, told Arab News.

RSIFF is a significant breakthrough for the whole industry, exhibitors, distributors and producers, he said. “This platform will help future filmmakers and storytellers know that this country is so full and rich in culture and storytelling. This is the exact platform that is needed for the talent to come across and present their project,” he added.

HIGHLIGHT

VOX Cinemas will screen 138 feature films and shorts from 67 countries in 34 languages. The content was produced by established and emerging talent, with fans, film enthusiasts, filmmakers and actors in attendance for many of the films.

On tour to the main VOX Cinema sites in Al-Balad that have been constructed to screen RSIFF films, Arab News spoke to Mohamed Al-Hashemi, KSA chief of Majid Al Futtaim. He said: “The Red Sea Film Festival is a statement for the Kingdom. There were no cinemas prior to April 2018, however, customers enjoyed the set of experiences as soon as they opened.

“With life coming back to normal after the COVID-19 period, the Red Sea Film Festival is a statement from the Kingdom to the world that Saudi Arabia will be a major player when it comes to local content production, demand for international content, and most importantly, demand for exhibitions as well, when it comes to the best of the best that can be offered to consumers.”

With movie theaters in more than six cities across the Kingdom in over 15 locations, VOX Cinemas operates 154 screens in Saudi Arabia. “We are considered to be the largest cinema exhibitors in the Kingdom in terms of site numbers and screen counts,” Al-Hashemi said.

Why is the screen count so important?

“The screen basically is the only platform where people can showcase local content producers on the big screen. With more big screens, more local content will be produced for the local market and the regional market, and hopefully Saudi as well to the international market,” Al-Hashemi said.

“The RSIFF is where the Kingdom can act as a local content producer and where we can bring out the folded and untold stories of this beautiful company, to the customers within Saudi,” he added.

On Dec. 6. during the inaugural red-carpet event, VOX Cinemas announced an ambitious initiative that aims to foster homegrown talent and showcase untold stories on the big screen.

A plan was made to boost regional film production and develop 25 Arabic films in the next five years.

El Massih said that many of these films would be from Saudi Arabia, with Saudi talent working as directors, producers and actors. There will also be films coming out of the United Arab Emirates and Egypt.

Speaking on the genres of the future films, he said: “The genre that we are focusing on and that has proven to work best is the comedy-drama. This is the sort of film that we’ll be working toward.”

As part of the initiative, VOX Cinemas will continue to support the next generation of homegrown content developers and provide resources for emerging filmmakers to bring their scripts to screen.

“This platform will search and scout for talent. It’ll be the same case later in the UAE and in other festivals that are taking place across the region.

“Accordingly, we’ll start putting a team together, building screening and writing rooms, getting stories from each of the different regions together, and then we’ll take that forward and then do the necessary films that we’ll see on the big screen,” El Massih said.

“Majid Al Futtaim has been very active in the region since 1999, starting off with exhibition, and then elevating our activities into film distribution, and recently in film production.”

Being a main contributor and partner of RSIFF is “huge,” he added, saying that such an opportunity will support emerging talent.

El Massih said: “This is the perfect platform for us to be participating and searching for the emerging talent and filmmakers that we can bring on board.”


Saudi officials sign deal to develop Saudi UK Tech Hub

Saudi officials sign deal to develop Saudi UK Tech Hub
Updated 16 sec ago

Saudi officials sign deal to develop Saudi UK Tech Hub

Saudi officials sign deal to develop Saudi UK Tech Hub
  • The Communications Ministry and the Saudi British Joint Business Council will work together on the platform to connect entrepreneurs in both countries with partners and investors

RIYADH: The Ministry of Communications and Information Technology has signed a memorandum of understanding with the Saudi British Joint Business Council to develop the Saudi UK Tech Hub, the Saudi Press Agency reported.

The hub is a digital platform that aims to connect Saudi and British entrepreneurs with partners and supporters in both countries, while enhancing and supporting the technical ecosystems.

Under the agreement, which was signed by Ibrahim Al-Nasser, undersecretary at the ministry, and SBJBC CEO Chris Anis Hopkins, the two sides will establish a board of directors comprising representatives from the Saudi and British public and private sectors. SBJBC will manage the hub’s financial affairs and provide support.

By helping to facilitate knowledge transfer, increase investment, and strengthen relationships, the platform aims to support the efforts of both countries to develop their positions as regional technology and innovation hubs, authorities said.

 


Arab, Muslim leaders congratulate Saudi crown prince on his appointment as prime minister

Arab, Muslim leaders congratulate Saudi crown prince on his appointment as prime minister
Updated 10 min 50 sec ago

Arab, Muslim leaders congratulate Saudi crown prince on his appointment as prime minister

Arab, Muslim leaders congratulate Saudi crown prince on his appointment as prime minister
  • Leaders wish Saudi crown prince success and hope that relations between their countries will continue to grow under his leadership

RIYADH: Arab and Muslim leaders have congratulated Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman following his appointment as Saudi Arabia’s prime minister on Tuesday, Saudi Press Agency reported.  

UAE President Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed Al-Nahyan and Vice President Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al-Maktoum congratulated the crown prince on his appointment.

Qatar’s Emir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al-Thani wished the crown prince success and hoped the relations between the two brotherly countries will continue to develop and grow. 

Bahrain’s King Hamad bin Isa Al-Khalifa also sent a similar cable. 

Pakistan’s Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif said: “On this occasion, I congratulate His Royal Highness Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman bin Abdulaziz Al-Saud, wishing him further success and the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia further welfare and prosperity under the leadership of King Salman bin Abdulaziz Al-Saud.”


Saudi tourism gets chance to bloom in UN challenge

Saudi tourism gets chance to bloom in UN challenge
Updated 28 September 2022

Saudi tourism gets chance to bloom in UN challenge

Saudi tourism gets chance to bloom in UN challenge
  • The UNWTO’s Natalia Bayona said that Saudi Arabia is a “priority because of how the country is committed to creating tourism as a public policy and as an economic sector” 
  • Bayona added that goals in the country’s Vision 2030 for “youth empowerment, women’s empowerment, sustainability, and tourism” are central to the UNWTO’s mission

RIYADH: Saudi Arabia’s blossoming tourism industry is being offered the chance to grow even faster through a UN challenge that helps nurture the best businesses.

Natalia Bayona of the UN World Tourism Organization has said she wants Saudi entrepreneurs to enter her agency’s Awake Tourism Challenge, whose previous winners have gained international experience and expert advice, and raised $350 million of investment over the four years it has run.

Bayona, the agency’s director of innovation, education and investments, told Arab News that Saudi Arabia is a “priority because of how the country is committed to creating tourism as a public policy and as an economic sector.” 

She added that goals in the country’s Vision 2030 for “youth empowerment, women’s empowerment, sustainability, and tourism” are central to the UNWTO’s mission.

“We’d like to give visibility and promote Saudi Arabia as a country making a strong effort in the tourism sector,” she said.

The challenge is a perfect opportunity to identify Saudi-based entrepreneurs trying to solve challenges they face in the sector, Bayona added.

Entrants are judged in one or more categories, including local community involvement, environmental work, good use of technology, employee development and the empowerment of women in business.

Bayona said the UNWTO is pushing for enterprises to employ locally to help develop rural economies.

“Eighty percent of people living in extreme poverty live in rural areas. Tourism can be part of the way rural areas can be developed,” she said.

Bayona added that women’s empowerment is important “because they have the lowest salaries, the lowest-status jobs. Nonetheless, tourism is the sector that hires the most women worldwide.”

She said the basing of her agency’s regional office in Saudi Arabia shows how seriously it takes the country’s efforts to expand tourism.

The UNWTO’s partners include tourism bodies from more than 160 countries, 100 universities, more than 400 investors and around 500 corporations.

The Awake Tourism Challenge has helped winners raise more than $350 million and helped create more than 100 pilot projects. The deadline to enter this year’s initiative is Oct. 15.


Saudi authorities seize 765,000 amphetamine tablets hidden in watermelons

Saudi authorities seize 765,000 amphetamine tablets hidden in watermelons
Updated 28 September 2022

Saudi authorities seize 765,000 amphetamine tablets hidden in watermelons

Saudi authorities seize 765,000 amphetamine tablets hidden in watermelons

RIYADH: Saudi authorities have seized 765,000 amphetamine tablets hidden in a watermelon shipment in Riyadh.
Five people – two citizens and three Syrians – were arrested in the security operation and have been referred to relevant authorities for further action, the Saudi Press Agency (SPA) reported.
Saudi Arabia has intensified its crackdown on drug smuggling networks.
Recently, authorities carried out a major security operation to thwart the smuggling of about 47 million amphetamine tablets, with a street value of up to $1 billion, in what was described as the Kingdom’s biggest drug bust ever.


Saudi Crown Prince receives written message from Sweden’s prime minister

Saudi Crown Prince receives written message from Sweden’s prime minister
Updated 28 September 2022

Saudi Crown Prince receives written message from Sweden’s prime minister

Saudi Crown Prince receives written message from Sweden’s prime minister
  • Walid bin Abdulkarim Al-Khuraiji, Vice Minister of Foreign Affairs, received the message from the Ambassador of Sweden to Saudi Arabia

RIYADH: Prince Mohammed bin Salman bin Abdulaziz, Crown Prince and Prime Minister of Saudi Arabia, received a written message on Wednesday from Magdalena Andersson, Sweden’s Prime Minister.
In the letter, Andersson expressed her appreciation for the Crown Prince’s role in ‘mediating the exchange of prisoners in the Russian-Ukrainian crisis’, according to Saudi Arabia’s state news agency SPA.
She added that Prince Mohammed bin Salman’s efforts reflected ‘keenness to support all international efforts aimed at resolving the crisis politically and mitigating its impacts’.
Walid bin Abdulkarim Al-Khuraiji, Vice Minister of Foreign Affairs, received the message from the Ambassador of Sweden to Saudi Arabia, Petra Menander, who delivered it at the Ministry's headquarters.
The pair reviewed bilateral ties between the two nations during their meeting, and exchanged viewpoints regarding issues of common interest.