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Hollywood mogul is AlUla’s hero in Saudi movie twist

Aula greg silverman Reuters/Andrew Kelly
Greg Silverman is pictured far left alongside actors George Clooney and Sandra Bullock and director Alfonso Cuaron at the premiere of the film Gravity
  • Deal with producer Greg Silverman
  • Stampede Ventures to bring 10 productions
  • Deal will help raise studio’s global profile

The ancient city of AlUla in Saudi Arabia has turned to a former Warner Bros movie mogul to further its ambitions to become a world-class hub for the film and creative industry.

Film AlUla, the Royal Commission for AlUla’s film agency, has signed a three-year deal with Stampede Ventures, led by founder and CEO Greg Silverman, with a projected spend of $350 million in the city. 

The partnership, finalised at the Future Investment Initiative in Riyadh, will see Stampede bringing 10 productions to AlUla, which will provide rebates and incentives to the movie-makers. 

Silverman is an entertainment industry veteran best known for his 20-year track record at Warner Brothers where he shepherded over 125 films to more than $38 billion in worldwide box office receipts.

These included the Harry Potter films, Chris Nolan’s Batman series, Zack Snyder’s 300 and Todd Phillips’ Hangover trilogy. 

Silverman, who founded Stampede in 2017, says the partnership will help develop the infrastructure needed by international productions, creating opportunities for the local economy.

A new 30,000sq m studio complex is nearing completion and Film AlUla is training Saudis to assume roles in front of and behind the camera.

It’s part of phase one of a full-service production facility, which includes two soundstages, backlot, production support buildings, workshops, warehouses, a recording studio, training and rehearsal space and an event space. 

Film AlUla Residence, a purpose-built crew quarters, will provide 300 units and office space.

Silverman says that the deal will play a significant role in growing AlUla from a regional creative hub to a platform for global filmmaking talent.

Rock, Nature, Outdoors Elephant Rock AlUla Jabal AlFil Royal Commission for AlUla
The sandstone formation Jabal AlFil or Elephant Rock is one of AlUla’s most iconic sights

Amr AlMadani, CEO, Royal Commission for AlUla, says the partnership “underscores Saudi Arabia’s investment potential as a film and creative hub”. 

Since 2020, AlUla has hosted more than 700 days of filming including the action movie Kandahar starring Gerard Butler, the Russo brothers’ drama Cherry starring Tom Holland, and Saudi filmmaker Tawfik Alzaidi’s debut feature, Norah

TV productions filmed in AlUla include the British series Expedition with Steve Backshall and National Geographic documentaries, along with commercials, promos, photo shoots and short films.

Global player

AlUla’s emergence is part of Saudi Arabia’s ambition to become a major player in the global movie business.

In 2021, the Saudi government chose the Cannes Film Festival to announce a cash-rebate programme offering producers up to 40 percent back on filming in the country.

At the time, Saudi Film Commission CEO Abdullah Al Eyaf said: “Our ambition is high, we want Saudi to become a global hub for film, creative production and industry talent.“

Earlier this year, Saudi Arabia’s Cultural Development Fund launched a SAR879 million ($234 million) film sector financing programme to support local content and promote filmmaking.

Outdoors, Nature, Machine Dramatic scenery makes AlUla a natural choice for filmingRoyal Commission for AlUla
With its towering sandstone mountains, the dramatic scenery of AlUla makes it a natural location choice
Film Investment Fund

The kingdom has also introduced a SAR375 million Film Investment Fund, which aims to develop more public-private sector collaborations in the nascent sector.

Mefic Capital has been appointed as fund manager. CEO Ibrahim Alhedaithy says he is “bullish” about the potential in the local film sector. 

“As the kingdom continues to make substantial investments in infrastructure and talent development, our financial expertise can help attract more investment and unlock tremendous returns,” he says.

Located 1,100km from Riyadh, AlUla covers more than 22,560 square kilometres.

It features a lush oasis valley, towering sandstone mountains and ancient cultural heritage sites dating back thousands of years to when the Lihyan and Nabataean kingdoms reigned.

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