Saudi Arabia

Saudi Arabia & its Rapid Expansion into Film Production

Saudi Arabia is making significant strides in the film production industry, as part of its Vision 2030 plan.

The country has recently lifted a 35-year ban on cinemas and is now aiming to produce and shoot 100 films and have 2,000 cinema screens in place by 2030. A target set by the Saudi Ministry of Investment, who is actively promoting growth in the industry. The Culture Minister, Awaad Alawwad said “opening cinemas will act as a catalyst for economic growth and diversification.”

High-profile films; Desert Warrior (2021) Dir. Rupert Wyatt and Kandahar (2023) Dir. Ric Roman Waugh, are among some of the recent productions to have been filmed in Saudi Arabia.

Desert Warrior, featuring leading actor Ben Kingsley, took place in the futuristic Neom, whilst American action film Kandahar, used AI technology to simulate Afghanistan.

A significant attraction to the films stemmed from the backing of the nation’s Ministry of Defence, which provided armored personnel carriers, Abrams tanks, Black Hawk helicopters, and Air15 jets for a battle sequence.

Simon West, the renowned British director behind movies like “Con Air” and “Lara Croft: Tomb Raider,” has also recently announced his plans to shoot the historical drama “Antara” in Neom, Situated on the Red Sea, it’s a promising location that combines deserts, mountains, and a scenic coastline, and is set to become an innovative eco city and a major media hub.

Additionally, the Saudi Film Commission announced a 40% rebate on qualifying expenses for upcoming films, documentaries, and animation projects.

Key locations for these productions include AIUIa, which offers a diverse landscape of deserts, mountains, historical cities like Hegra, Petra and of course Neom. The Neom Media Village and Bajdah Desert Studios already have four soundstages in operation, with an additional six set to open this year, including a high-tech volumetric production stage.

Saudi Arabia
Photo by NEOM on Unsplashed

Saudi Arabia’s rich archaeological and historical sites, as well as its ambitious construction projects like the Jeddah Tower, present opportunities for filmmakers and location scouts across the globe.

Ali Azarmi, the Managing Director of high-end TV and commercial production company, Joy Films, highlights the industry’s growth and development in Saudi Arabia, stating that the industry is still fresh, but as with the entire country, “it is growing and developing at an unprecedented pace.”

Saudi Arabia continues to welcome international productions and ambitiously moves forward with their Vision 2030 plan for film and high-end TV sectors.