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The US deals set to transform entertainment sector in Saudi Arabia

Published: Updated:

Saudi Arabia has launched an ambitious plan to build an entertainment industry roping in around 250 representatives from major Hollywood financiers and players.

During a summit held recently at the Four Seasons Hotel in Beverly Hills, California, supported by the Saudi General Entertainment Authority (GEA), several Saudi investment and private sector leaders promised services to facilitate US investment and partnerships in the country.

According to Variety, a newly created board was also given the task to expand entertainment options. Leading media personality and entrepreneur Arianna Huffington moderated the panels, which touched on a range of topics, including improving quality-of-life measures.

AMC, the world’s largest movie theater company, announced on Wednesday that it had been granted the first licenses to operate movie theaters in Saudi Arabia. In December last year, Saudi Arabia announced that cinemas will be granted license in early 2018.

Deals galore

A handful of deals have been sealed pertaining to the entertainment sector in Saudi Arabia.

• Cirque du Soleil will put on its first-ever show for Saudi National Day later this year, said Jonathan Tetrault, chief operating officer for the entertainment company.

• National Geographic Explorer will also build 10 new locations for its “Ocean Odyssey,” a walkthrough adventure, starting with a location in Riyadh to open in 2019.

• Feld Entertainment, the Florida-based live touring company, is entering a long-term relationship with the GEA to produce international events, including “Disney on Ice,” “Disney Live,” “Marvel Experience,” and “Monster Jam.”

• Among Hollywood players entering deals is Endeavor, parent company of WME. The Saudi Public Investment Fund is nearing a deal to acquire a minority stake in Endeavor, worth anywhere from $400 million to $500 million.

“We’re starting from scratch. In some areas, we are starting from zero,” the magazine reported Faisal Bafarat, chief executive of the GEA, as saying. Bafarat said the country is also planning to build its first water and theme parks.