Saudi Arabia inks UK deals to boost entertainment sector

Kingdom plans to have new theatre shows, open-air cinemas and a gaming expo

Saudi Arabia wants to expand its nascent entertainment industry with new shows and attractions to boost tourism and domestic spend. Bloomberg
Beta V.1.0 - Powered by automated translation

Saudi Arabia’s General Entertainment Authority, a government body set up to develop the country’s nascent entertainment industry, signed a variety of deals in the UK this week for the development of the sector.

The efforts are part of the entity’s strategy to position the kingdom among the top four entertainment destinations in Asia. 

The deals signed by GEA’s chairman Turki Al include those with: Flying Music, the global theatre company behind shows such as Thriller; the British magician Dynamo, or Steven Frayne; The Works Entertainment, which stages the world-famous show The Illusionist that was acquired by Cirque du Soleil Entertainment Group on Wednesday; Luna Cinema, which organises open-air cinema screenings; and 1001 Inventions, a company behind touring educational exhibitions.

“The agreements aim to enrich and diversify entertainment offerings in the kingdom and attract contributions from [other] world-class professionals and operators,” GEA said on Thursday.

Under the preliminary agreements, Saudi Arabia and the entertainment companies expressed their intention to work together. No final business transactions have been signed as yet.

Separately, Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman chaired a workshop on Wednesday about tourism with the Council of Economic and Development Affairs and the Saudi Commission for Tourism and National Heritage, to discuss growth prospects of the tourism industry and how it can attract investment. 

Last year, the kingdom said it intends to stage around 5,000 events in 2018, as its entertainment industry starts to gain momentum. Artists that performed in the country last year include David Guetta, Enrique Iglesias, Amr Diab and The Black Eyed PeasSinger Mariah Carey also performed in Saudi Arabia last month.

The country aims to generate 16.5 billion riyals (Dh16.15bn) in revenues and create 70,000 jobs within the entertainment industry by 2030, as part of the broader Vision 2030 plans to modernise and diversify the economy and reduce its dependence on oil revenues, GEA chief executive Amr Banaja told The National in October.

Saudi Arabia also aims to double consumer spending on activities and attractions within the kingdom to 6 per cent of a household budget from the current 3 per cent in the same period.

The country plans to host Disney, Marvel and Cirque du Soleil shows in the coming months, the chief executive added.

Other agreements signed this week were with a Saudi company called Design Lab Experience, which organises Ramadan tents featuring entertainment options in various locations across the kingdom, and touring theatre TeamPartner Three, said GEA.

Deals were also signed with contractors Durrat Arriyadh and Durrat Al Arus to use their infrastructure and facilities for entertainment events.

More deals were signed with global operators: Police Academy, to present interactive shows for audiences; Ultimate Soldier Challenge, for a reality TV show featuring members of the Saudi armed forces; and Ferrari Festival, a public parade showcasing the Italian car.

Three other festival and exhibition agreements were signed with: Insomnia, the creators of one of the largest video game expos in the world; Madame Tussaud’s museum owner Merlin Entertainment; and IMG, to organise the Colour Run event

in the kingdom.