Saudi Arabia launches $34.7bn entertainment revolution

Saudi Arabia has launched an initiative to become an entertainment and leisure hub following modernization reforms and the annulment of the 35-year cinema ban.

The initiative got underway on Thursday night with the presence of American film star Katie Holmes and British actor-cum-director Idris Elba along with Saudi officials. The government will invest 130 billion riyals ($34.7 billion) in culture and leisure by 2020.

The aim is to create “a true cultural industry, with theatres, cinemas and training centres,” said Ahmad al-Mazid, head of the culture policy for Saudi Arabia.

Major projects include 16 entertainment complexes, an aquatic centre and three large leisure hubs – all part of the goal to ensure that three Saudi cities are global top 100 for quality of life.

The Quality of Life Program 2020 is in part created to encourage young wealthy citizens to spend more of their disposable income on leisure in the Kingdom; as over half of the Saudi population is below 25 years of age.

“It will contribute to the satisfaction of Saudis and incentivise them to invest in their country and to stay,” said Ahmad Khatib, head of the state’s entertainment policy.

The government will invest 50.9 billion riyals into the movement while seeking private and foreign investors for the remainder.

The initiative aims to create 300,000 new jobs by 2030 and is a major pillar in the Vision 2030 plan.