Middle East

IMAX announces plans to produce films in Saudi Arabia

Author: Zaynab KhojjiSat, 2018-05-12 14:11ID: 1526123740267618500

CANNES: Saudi Arabias General Culture Authority and the IMAX Corporation announced Saturday morning at the Saudi pavilion at the 71st Cannes Film Festival their plans to develop IMAX-format films to be produced within Saudi Arabia. IMAX, which works both in film production and theaters, also told Arab News that it intends to build 20 to 30 IMAX theaters in Saudi Arabia in the coming years.
In an exclusive interview with Arab News, IMAX CEO Richard Gelfond stated that it plans to help develop both narrative documentaries as well as international blockbuster co-productions within the Kingdom, with the intention of developing the infrastructure of film in Saudi Arabia as well as to tell the country's story both to the Saudi people and the world.
“I think well probably start with a documentary project, but one of the great things about IMAX is that it takes people where they could never go, whether its the bottom of the ocean, whether its outer space, thats what IMAX does at its best. I think well try to find a project involving Saudi Arabia where we can show people in Saudi Arabia educationally how beautiful their own country is and what they can learn about it, as well as export it to other IMAX theaters to share it with the rest of the world,” Gelfond said.
Ahmad Al-Maziad, CEO of the General Culture Authority, told Arab News that the intention is to have IMAX utilized across the board, from major features to documentaries to international productions filming within Saudi Arabia.
“IMAX is a brand, and its a brand of quality. Its a testament to what we need and want to do at GCA. I think we want to go for something thats higher-end quality. We want to tell our own stories. What better to use the best quality and the best screens to develop a script, which might look like a documentary, but at the end of the day its a story. You take a historical journey through the landscape of Saudi, telling an amazing story from a couple thousand years ago. With that youre creating a scripted documentary that showcases both the storytelling as well as the landscape that we have in Saudi Arabia,” said Al-Maziad.
IMAX intends to hire as much Saudi talent as possible on its projects within Saudi, as its intention is to work with the General Culture Authority to develop the landscape from the bottom up. At the festival on Friday, the GCA announced plans to offer a rebate of at least 35 per cent for foreign productions filmed within the country and 50 per cent of all money spent hiring Saudi talent.
“I think we have to decide on the first project and see what the scope is, but the idea would be to use Saudi talent in large part. Its not just about watching one movie or three movies, its how do you develop the industry. Weve been in business for 50 years and weve done that in other places, most notably in China. We really felt a stake there in developing the film infrastructure in the country, and we feel a similar stake to doing the same thing Saudi,” said Gelfond.
IMAX opened its first IMAX screen through Vox Cinemas in Riyadh, beginning with the release of Marvels "Avengers: Infinity War," which has sold out every showing, according to Gelfond. The plan is to develop more theaters throughout Saudi Arabia both with Majid Al Futtaims Vox Cinemas as well as AMC Cinemas, which are also planning to open throughout Saudi Arabia.
“AMC is our largest partner in the world, and were in discussions what AMC about a number of locations throughout Saudi Arabia. Im going there next week, Wednesday and Thursday, for other discussions. We just want to do the best entertainment possible, world class, at the best locations possible. That will develop over time,” said Gelfond.
Gelfond said it is not decided how many of the planned 20 to 30 theaters will be Vox, and how many will be AMC, as it is currently in discussions with both parties now.
“I think its a very exciting opportunity. IMAX in the Middle East, we have 22 theaters open today, and some are incredible like at the Mall of the Emirates, and some are in more developing places like Jordan, Egypt and Lebanon. People, when they think of IMAX, they think of it as the busiest city and the biggest corner, but the goal is to bring the best cinema experience not only to rich people in big cities, but to a variety of people throughout the country. Weve done that in the region, and I look forward to doing things in Saudi Arabia.”

Main category: Saudi ArabiaTags: Cannes 2018IMAXSaudi ArabiaFilm production Pavilion gives Saudi Arabia a starring role in CannesIncentives for filming in Saudi Arabia announced at Cannes


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