Saudi pavilion at Cannes Film Festival 2021 turns spotlight on Kingdom’s film industry

Saudi Arabia to take part in Cannes Film Festival 2021

The Saudi Film Commission is celebrating the remarkable emergence of cinematography and filmmaking in the Kingdom through its exhibition at the 74th edition of the Cannes Film Festival; which is being held from July 6- 17.

The cinema industry in Saudi Arabia is markedly the fastest growing in the Middle East; both in the production and also consumption of films and streaming programming.

The dynamism of the sector is creating a once-in-a-lifetime business opportunity for international filmmakers; producers and creatives who wish to collaborate with or create content for the Saudi film market; expected to amount to $1.2bn by 2030.

The opening

On the opening day of Cannes Saudi Pavilion; Abdullah Al-Qhatani; CEO of the Film Commission said: “We are thrilled to be showcasing the best of the Saudi film sector at the renowned international event. Cannes is one of the highlights of the industry’s calendar and we are looking forward to meeting our counterparts and further building mutually beneficial partnerships.”

“Right now; there is a huge opportunity for investment into the sector; with spectacular landscapes for filming and an emerging; enthusiastic talent pool complemented by a fast-developing film infrastructure. We have seen huge growth in the sector in just a few short years; and we are also confident it will continue to grow exponentially;” Al-Qhatani added.

Figures released during the 2020 META Cinema Forum exhibitors’ conference showed the Kingdom as the region’s top-grossing territory; with more than $73 million movie ticket sales made during the previous year; a feat made all the more impressive in a difficult year for cinema due to the pandemic.

New opportunities

Opportunities in the sector are already being recognized by international titans. Netflix recently announced a five-year partnership with a Saudi digital media studio; Telfaz11 to produce eight feature films; alongside homegrown Saudi films performing well on its streaming platform with The Perfect Candidate; Scales and Masameer.

With over half of Saudi’s media revenue coming from at-home entertainment; there is the huge market potential for streaming and also online content producers. An incredible 95 percent of Saudi internet users watch videos online (2019) and video on demand has been growing at a staggering rate of 27 percent per annum over the last five years.

The Film Commission is developing the sector by embedding a regulatory framework; driving investment into the sector; developing Saudi talent; building international partnerships and events; and also positioning the Kingdom as a world-class filming destination.

Saudi Arabia is undergoing a cultural transformation as part of Vision 2030; which is also diversifying the economy. Under the leadership of the Ministry of Culture; the cultural sector is set to contribute more than $23 billion to the Saudi economy and create 100;000 jobs over the next decade.

Modern design

It is worth mentioning that the Saudi Pavilion is also designed in a modern way; with the participation of several government agencies; the private sector; and Saudi companies specialized in the field; namely: the Saudi Film Commission; Saudi Ministry of Investment; Red Sea International Film Festival; NEOM; Film Al-Ula; MBC Group; Ithra; Nebras Films; Telfaz11; CineWaves Films and Arabian Pictures; in addition to a group of filmmakers and those interested in this field.

There is a range of events in the pavilion including Meet the Saudi Film Industry on Friday (July 8) and Meet the Producers on Saturday (July 9).

The Saudi Film Commission; one of the Ministry of Culture’s 11 sector-specific commissions; also oversees the Kingdom’s evolving film sector; supporting established and aspiring film professionals and identifying and also promoting local Saudi talent.

The Film Commission was launched in 2020 to drive the growth of a thriving production ecosystem in order to address the increase in domestic and international demand.

Supported by the Kingdom Vision 2030 strategic framework; the Ministry of Culture is leading a cultural transformation to develop a rich ecosystem that also nurtures creativity; unlocks the economic potential of the sector and also unleashes new and inspiring forms of expression.