Saudi Arabia to get new entertainment destinations from PIF-backed unit

Saudi Entertainment Ventures aims to convert Eastern Province into leisure destination

Saudi-German Jazz Fusion concert held on April 27 at King Fahd Cultural Center in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia. Courtesy Center for International Communication, Saudi Arabia
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Saudi Entertainment Ventures (Seven), a subsidiary of the kingdom’s Public Investment Fund, rolled out plans for its largest project to date – a one million square-metre theme park – and a string of other leisure schemes, in the Eastern Province.

“Seven intends to convert the Eastern Province into an excellent entertainment destination in the Arabian Gulf, thanks to its strategic geographic location and tourism significance for the kingdom,” Seven chairman Abdullah bin Nasser Al-Dawood says.

“[The region’s] stunning coasts, green oases and serene vast deserts make it an attractive area for investment and development.”

The amusement park project will be located in Al Aziziyah – most likely with additional components such as retail and restaurants. Seven disclosed no further details.

The developer also said it would build six cinemas and three new entertainment “destinations” in the Eastern Province.

Saudi Arabia, the Middle East’s biggest oil exporter, is implementing economic and social reforms as it opens up its economy for foreign direct investment. Growing the nascent entertainment industry is a key plank of the Vision 2030 economic diversification strategy to reduce dependence on oil revenues.

The kingdom has already hosted concerts by Western entertainers such as Nelly and Mariah Carey, announced plans for an opera house, lifted a 30-year ban on cinemas and allowed women to drive.

Seven was established by the PIF sovereign wealth fund in December 2017. It was the first entity to obtain a licence for operating movie theatres in the kingdom and opened the first cinema in Saudi Arabia in more than 35 years, in partnership with US-based cinema operator AMC Group, last year.

Seven’s other projects in the Eastern Province will occupy parcels of land ranging from 330,000 square metres to 360,000 square metres in Dammam, Khobar and Al Ahsa. They will feature sports areas, multiplex cinemas, green spaces and water sports facilities, it said.

“Our strategy is to replicate amusement parks, entertainment areas and movie theatres across the kingdom, starting in Riyadh, and now the Eastern Province,” added Bill Ernest, chief executive of Seven.