New independent cinema to open in Saudi Arabia

Wadi Cinema, which will open from Thursday at the first Diriyah Biennale, aims to give the country's film lovers an alternative experience

Wadi Cinema, an independent cinema house, will open in Saudi Arabia this week. Photo: Muvi Cinemas
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Wadi Cinema, a new concept that will promote independent feature films from filmmakers throughout the Middle East and North Africa region among Saudi audiences, will open on Thursday.

A collaboration between Saudi cinema brand Muvi Cinemas and Telfaz11 – a media production, financing and distribution leader in Saudi Arabia and the UAE – Wadi Cinema will stage a pop-up launch at the Diriyah Biennale until March 11, 2022, at Riyadh’s Jax District.

Diriyah is the first biennale to take place in the kingdom, although Wadi Cinema said that the pop-up will give it the flexibility to travel throughout Saudi Arabia, allowing Telfaz11 and Muvi Cinema "to deliver best-in-class independent films on a roving basis".

“The best way to experience cinema is in a theatre, where audiences can break away from their everyday lives to watch a filmmaker’s vision come to life," said Sultan AlHokair, chief executive of Muvi. "When we partnered with Telfaz11, we wanted to find unique and innovative ways to bring the experience of independent and critically acclaimed films from renowned film festivals to audiences throughout the kingdom.”

Telfaz chief executive Alaa Fadan said Wadi Cinema will focus on enhancing Saudi Arabia’s theatrical film culture by providing an alternative experience.

"The venture also seeks to become a preferred destination for both domestic and international independent and mainstream art house films, while also serving as the staging ground for the latest releases from the world’s biggest film festivals," he said.

“We are keen to promote and encourage dialogue between the local film community and give independent Saudi filmmakers a voice and opportunity to show their work and cement it in the booming local cinema industry."

Wadi Cinemas will promote awareness of non-mainstream cinema throughout Saudi Arabia and online thanks to Telfaz’s 29 million subscribers and followers across social media.

The Saudi production industry is expected to experience rapid growth in the coming years, and Telfaz11 is likely to be a key player.

The company is in various phases of production on projects as part of an eight-picture deal with Netflix, signed in 2020, to develop and produce films for both the streamer's Arab and global audiences.

Telfaz and Netflix collaborated on the 2020 short film anthology Six Windows in the Desert, which Netflix called an “incredible success”.

Updated: December 15, 2021, 9:45 AM