Saudi Arabia slashes cinema license fees, ticket prices set to drop

Saudi Arabia slashes cinema license fees, ticket prices set to drop
The Saudi government aims to stimulate the cinema sector and increase its contribution to the economy. (Asharq Al-Awsat)
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Updated 22 April 2024
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Saudi Arabia slashes cinema license fees, ticket prices set to drop

Saudi Arabia slashes cinema license fees, ticket prices set to drop
  • Saudi Film Commission is encouraging cinema operators to offer discounts and promotions to attract more moviegoers
  • Initiative aims to increase the number of cinema halls, make Saudi films more accessible, and encourage more people to visit cinemas across the Kingdom

RIYADH: Cinema ticket prices in Saudi Arabia are set to drop significantly after the Film Commission’s recent decision to cut cinema operating license fees.

The move, approved by the commission’s board of directors chaired by Minister of Culture Prince Badr bin Abdullah bin Farhan, aims to foster growth, boost audience engagement and establish Saudi Arabia as a regional filmmaking hub.

The commission has simplified the licensing process and reduced fees for various operations, including permanent, temporary and special-needs cinemas, the Saudi Press Agency reported.

Applicants can now easily obtain licenses to operate a production studio, create visual and audio content, distribute or import films, and obtain no-objection licenses for cinematography through the Cultural Licenses Platform, Abde’a.

License fees for operating permanent or temporary cinemas in Saudi Arabia have been significantly reduced in various categories of cities:

In category “A” cities, the cost of a permanent cinema license has been reduced to SR25,000 ($6,666), down from SR210,000. In category “B” cities, the fee is now SR15,000, reduced from SR126,000, while in category “C” cities, the cost is SR5,000, down from SR84,000.

For temporary cinema licenses, the fees have also decreased. In category “A” cities, the cost is now SR15,000, down from SR105,000. In category “B” cities, the fee is SR10,000, reduced from SR63,000, and in category “C” cities, it is now SR5,000, down from SR42,000.

The commission also reduced the fee for a license to operate a cinema, whether for showing one or more films on a permanent or temporary basis.

The reduced fee for a permanent cinema in “A” category cities is SR3,000 per branch, down from SR21,000 per screen. In “B” category cities, the new fee is SR2,000, reduced from SR12,600, while in “C” category cities, the cost is SR1,000, down from SR8,400.

For temporary cinemas, the reduced fee in “A” category cities is SR500 per branch, reduced from SR5,000 per screen. In “B” category cities, the fee is now SR500, down from SR5,000, and in “C” category cities, the current fee is SR500, also down from SR5,000.

The commission is encouraging cinema operators to offer discounts and promotions to attract more moviegoers. This initiative aims to increase the number of cinema halls, make Saudi films more accessible, and encourage more people to visit cinemas across the Kingdom.

These measures are part of the Film Commission’s efforts to achieve the strategic goals of the film industry by fostering growth in the number of box offices across the Kingdom and boosting the economic contributions of companies in the sector.

Additionally, the commission aims to support cultural and creative diversity in cinema, create a competitive environment that encourages investment in the film industry, and enhance the overall movie-going experience. This approach is designed to strengthen the Kingdom’s position as a leading regional center for the film industry.

Film Commission CEO Abdullah Al-Qahtani said: “At the commission, we are working to stimulate the film industry by encouraging private-sector companies operating cinemas in the Kingdom to provide discounts and promotional offers to cinema viewership, with the aim of enhancing the film culture in the Kingdom.

“We also work intensively to enhance the presence of Saudi films by stimulating the showing of Saudi films in various cinemas.”


Allam platform included in IBM’s watsonx

Allam platform included in IBM’s watsonx
Updated 6 sec ago
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Allam platform included in IBM’s watsonx

Allam platform included in IBM’s watsonx
  • Watsonx is IBM’s commercial generative AI and scientific data platform based on the cloud
  • The director of the National Information Center at the SDAIA commended the watsonx platform’s exceptional technical capabilities

RIYADH: The Saudi Data and Artificial Intelligence Authority announced Wednesday that Allam, the AI generative platform serving Saudi Arabia and Arabic speakers around the world, was included in IBM’s watsonx data platform at the IBM Think 2024 conference in its pilot phase as one of the best generative models in Arabic in the world.
Watsonx is IBM’s commercial generative AI and scientific data platform based on the cloud.
In a speech at the annual conference, the director of the National Information Center at the SDAIA, Essam Al-Waqeet, commended the watsonx platform’s exceptional technical capabilities in enabling large language models and simplifying machine learning, as well as enhancing AI governance, compliance and hybrid cloud deployment flexibility, and praised the inclusion of Allam for global use, which significantly strengthens SDAIA’s position as a leader in the field of AI.
“It is acknowledged that large linguistic models trained on high-quality data are the basis for the successful implementation of generative AI, and Allam has been trained on more than 500 billion linguistic units in Arabic. We will seek to expand the addition of high-quality data and work to improve the accuracy of its models,” Al-Waqeet said.
He also reaffirmed the SDAIA’s commitment to make Allam the best generative AI model in the Arabic language in the world.
Al-Waqeet also invited the participants at the IBM Think 2024 to join the third Global Artificial Intelligence Summit, to be organized by the SDAIA in Riyadh from Sept. 10-12 later this year.


Speedy and secure, Haramain High Speed Railway enhances Hajj experience

Umrah pilgrims wearing ihram walk at a Haramain High Speed Railway station. (SPA)
Umrah pilgrims wearing ihram walk at a Haramain High Speed Railway station. (SPA)
Updated 30 min 46 sec ago
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Speedy and secure, Haramain High Speed Railway enhances Hajj experience

Umrah pilgrims wearing ihram walk at a Haramain High Speed Railway station. (SPA)
  • The Haramain High Speed Railway plays a crucial role in the Hajj season’s transportation system
  • Its operational plan incorporates more than 3,800 trips, offering more than 1.6 million seats to serve pilgrims and visitors in Madinah

RIYADH: The Haramain High Speed Railway offers pilgrims and travelers a safe and efficient way to navigate between holy sites.

The Saudi Press Agency recently witnessed the smooth operations at the Madinah station, the punctual arrivals and departures of trains carrying hundreds of pilgrims, Umrah performers, citizens and residents.

The train travels with regularity and is easy to use. At the station, SPA witnessed a streamlined process — travelers verify their reservations, head to the departure hall and board the train. The 13 rail cars offer ample seating. One car is dedicated to food and beverages.

Yahya Al-Sharqawi, from Egypt, expressed satisfaction with the ease and safety of the journey, highlighting the convenience of traveling directly from Jeddah airport to Madinah. He commended the Kingdom’s commitment to facilitating pilgrims’ movement.

Anwar Badr, another Egyptian visitor, was pleased with the many transportation options available, and the ease with which the Grand Mosque and the Prophet’s Mosque can be reached, and expressed gratitude for the exceptional services provided to pilgrims.

Ali Rajabi, from Iran, echoed these sentiments, praising the comfort and convenience offered by the Haramain High Speed Railway. He said that the project serves pilgrims from all corners of the globe.

The Madinah station caters to travelers’ needs with a variety of amenities. Parking is available below the station, and self-service kiosks handle reservations and ticketing.

Information and assistance offices help to navigate the facilities. Multiple arrival and departure halls ensure smooth passenger flow, with seasonal halls specifically dedicated to serving pilgrims during peak periods.

For added convenience, the station boasts retail outlets selling food and beverages, as well as companies offering housing and car rental services. A permanent health center provides on-site medical care.

The Haramain High Speed Railway plays a crucial role in the Hajj season’s transportation system. Its operational plan incorporates more than 3,800 trips, offering more than 1.6 million seats to serve pilgrims and visitors in Madinah.

This efficient and modern railway system is a testament to Saudi Arabia’s dedication to ensuring a smooth and fulfilling Hajj experience for all, SPA reported.


Saudi Arabia showcases geospatial innovation at Ghana forum

Saudi Arabia showcases geospatial innovation at Ghana forum
Updated 49 min 19 sec ago
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Saudi Arabia showcases geospatial innovation at Ghana forum

Saudi Arabia showcases geospatial innovation at Ghana forum
  • The conference highlights the significance of investing in technologies, artificial intelligence, and innovation in surveying and geospatial activities

RIYADH: Saudi Arabia’s General Authority for Survey and Geospatial Information is participating in the annual Conference of the International Federation of Surveyors in Accra, Ghana, from May 19-24.

The conference highlights the significance of investing in technologies, artificial intelligence, and innovation in surveying and geospatial activities, aiming for a flexible environment and sustainable management of natural resources.

Attendees will exchange expertise and learn best practices in the field.

The Saudi authority delivered a technical presentation, “Surveying and Geospatial Information in Saudi Arabia: Past, Present, and Future Aspirations,” during the event, attended by FIG President Diane Dumashie, vice presidents and experts.

Saudi ambassador to Ghana and Togo, Sultan Al-Dakhil, visited the authority’s booth, appreciating its efforts to strengthen partnerships with international organizations.

With more than 1,500 participants from 80 countries, the conference facilitates international collaborations among government bodies, the private sector, academia, and global expertise centers through 70 scientific sessions.


Saudi fund boosts film financing at Cannes festival

Saudi fund boosts film financing at Cannes festival
Updated 22 May 2024
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Saudi fund boosts film financing at Cannes festival

Saudi fund boosts film financing at Cannes festival

RIYADH: The Cultural Development Fund, a vital financial engine for Saudi Arabia’s culture sector, along with partners from the Kingdom’s film industry, are presenting film financing and investment opportunities at the 77th annual Cannes International Film Festival, held from May 14 to 25.

The fund is present at the festival for the third year, in line with its mission of nurturing the domestic film scene and strengthening its role as a key enabler of cultural growth.

The fund highlights its Film Sector Financing Program at the Saudi pavilion, led by the Film Commission. The program offers comprehensive financial packages that support the entire filmmaking process, from creation and production to distribution, for both local and foreign companies working on film and TV series in Saudi Arabia.

It also provides an opportunity for companies and investment funds to participate in the Kingdom’s film industry and contribute to its development.

Its participation in the Cannes event aligns with its continuous efforts to attract filmmakers and investment.

The fund aims to be a leader in the Saudi film industry and collaborates with other stakeholders to build a sustainable film sector that contributes to the national gross domestic product.

Established under the National Development Fund in 2021, the fund aims to invigorate Saudi Arabia’s cultural scene. By supporting a range of cultural endeavors and facilitating investment, the fund fosters a thriving domestic cultural sector, aligning with the National Culture Strategy and Saudi Vision 2030.


Madinah hosts Hajj permit awareness exhibition

Madinah hosts Hajj permit awareness exhibition
Updated 22 May 2024
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Madinah hosts Hajj permit awareness exhibition

Madinah hosts Hajj permit awareness exhibition
  • The event will explain how artificial intelligence is used to manage the Hajj crowds

RIYADH: “No Hajj Without a Permit” is the title of a mobile exhibition being held in Madinah until May 25 to raise awareness about safe and secure Hajj practices.

Organized by the Ministry of Interior, the event will explain how artificial intelligence is used to manage the Hajj crowds. Visitors will also learn about the Makkah Route Initiative, part of the broader Pilgrim Experience Program under Saudi Vision 2030.

As well as highlighting the ministry’s efforts to ensure the security and safety of visitors to the Two Holy Mosques, it explains emergency reporting procedures through the unified security operations centers (911) and the services offered on the Absher electronic platform.

Meanwhile, the Saudi Data and Artificial Intelligence Authority continues to collaborate with government agencies on the Makkah Route Initiative, implementing the scheme at 11 airports in seven countries.

At Jakarta International Airport in Indonesia, for example, SDAIA uses advanced technical systems and infrastructure in the pilgrim hall to simplify the Hajj experience.

The setup includes 12 interconnected workstations equipped with state-of-the-art technologies that integrate with SDAIA’s National Information Center systems, expediting pilgrims’ procedures. Technical support is provided 24/7 by a team of engineers, reflecting SDAIA’s commitment to leveraging AI, innovation and digital transformation to deliver exceptional service.