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Saudi Arabia sets up Big Time film investment fund

The Big Time fund will be used to support pan-Arab cinema and production facilities have already been developed at AlUla Film AlUla
The Big Time fund will be used to support pan-Arab cinema. Production facilities have already been developed at AlUla
  • $130m fund for pan-Arab cinema
  • Plan for 20 films this year
  • Future funds for US and India

Saudi Arabia’s General Entertainment Authority has set up the Big Time investment fund to support pan-Arab cinema, in Riyadh’s latest push to develop soft power through sports and culture.

The authority’s head Turki Alalshikh said during a visit to Cairo that the entertainment authority would act as the Big Time fund’s main sponsor along with the ministry of culture. 

There will also be input from private Saudi marketing, production and event organisers such as Sela Studio, SMC, Alamiya, Rotana and Benchmark.

“In its first phase the fund intends to invest in the most important Saudi, Gulf and Arab films,” the official Saudi Press Agency said. 

The fund, which will be registered with the Saudi stock market authority, will have initial capital of four billion Egyptian pounds ($130 million) under the management of Egyptian director Ahmed El-Badawi, Asharq TV said

It will be followed by two further arts investment funds called Big Time 2 and Big Time 3, focused on US and Indian films.  

The fund will differ from Saudi Arabia’s Red Sea Film Foundation, a non-profit that funds art films, by aiming to make a profit within five years, Asharq said. The Saudi Film Commission and MBC TV’s training academy also help with funding

It will produce 20 films this year, with the first opening in cinemas during Eid al-Fitr in April after the fasting month of Ramadan. 

Since a ban on cinemas was lifted in 2018, Saudi Arabia has become a major market for films. Of 432 shown last year making SAR919 million ($245 million) in box office receipts, Hollywood film Oppenheimer and Saudi film Sattar were the most popular. 

Film production facilities have also been developed at AlUla and Neom for location shooting.

A close associate of Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, Alalshikh has overseen the arrival of a stream of global and regional big names to Riyadh this year to appear at public events. 

They include boxers, mixed martial arts champions, snooker stars and even Arab singers who publicly resolved long-standing professional rivalries. Several well-known Arab personalities such as Egyptian actor Mohamed Heneidy have been given Saudi nationality.

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