Thousands of Saudi women to join entertainment field
Last year, Saudi Arabia's entertainment sector employed 17,000 male and female workers. According to official figures, the Entertainment Authority organized 2,200 events in 2017.
In what is seen as a tremendous boost for the industry, the head of the General Authority for Entertainment, Ahmed Al-Khatib, announced during a ceremony at a hotel in Riyadh on Thursday, February 22, 2018, that the authority will appoint 220,000 employees by the year 2030, making the sector one of the most attractive for female Saudi workers.
It is expected that this year's agenda will include more than 5,000 activities, ranging from artistic, cultural, musical, educational, and a number of different festivals for families (i.e. women will be allowed to attend), youths and children, including dozens of international events to be held all over Saudi Arabia, in big and small cities.
One of the most prominent factors in this growth announced by Al-Khatib is the establishment of the first opera house in Saudi Arabia in Jeddah city. “Making this announcement, I didn’t believe that I was in Saudi Arabia," he commented.
During the ceremony, he announced that SR 240 billion (about US$ 64 billion) will be invested in the entertainment sector over the coming 10 years. Funds will be raised from both government and the private sector. Al-Khatib said that the entertainment activities will be aimed at spreading happiness among Saudis, pointing out that the authority enjoys unlimited support from the Saudi leadership.
He vowed that Riyadh will witness a surge in the entertainment industry bringing it to the level of New York and London. “The Kingdom will be among the best countries all over the world in the entertainment industry during the coming period. We aim to attract Gulf people to come and attend Saudi events instead of Saudi tourists going to them," he added.
In the past, investors would travel abroad to produce movies which were then shown inside the Kingdom. But now, everything will change, everything related to entertainment will be Saudi-ised. He pointed out that in 2017, there were about 15 million visitors attending 2,200 entertainment events in 48 cities and provinces. The authority aims to target 50,000 events by the year 2030.
He added that the presence of 500 companies now registered as organizing companies in the field of entertainment within one year demonstrates the sector’s rapid improvement.
Investing in entertainment
The Saudi Entertainment Authority was established in May 2016 in conjunction with the Kingdom's announcement of its 2030 Vision. The entertainment sector is considered essential for developing the national Saudi economy.
Last April, on the launching day of the Kingdom’s 2030 Vision, Crown Prince Mohamed bin Salman announced the activation of various government funds to help in establishing and developing entertainment centers. At the same time, he encouraged investors from both inside and outside Saudi Arabia to invest in the field, and to create partnerships with international entertainment companies, and allocate land to build cultural and entertainment projects including libraries, museums, and arts centers.
Since the inauguration of the authority, Saudi Arabia has witnessed significant developments in the field of entertainment. After many years of concerts being banned, performers have returned to sing in cities across the Kingdom. In 2017, Jeddah organized a big concert for the Saudi singer Mohamed Abdo. The last concert held there was in 2009, and concerts Have not been organised in Riyadh since 1985.
Cinema, theater and music
Last March witnessed the first concert that was put on for families. In the past, such concerts were limited to attendance for youths only. The concert was performed by Egyptian musician Omar Khairat at Juman Park in King Abdullah Economic City.
Saudis are also eagerly awaiting the premiere of the first movie to be shown in Saudi cinemas, due to take place next month. Cinema is returning after being banned for over 30 years.
For the first time in 50 years, during which women were restricted to attend only closed women's theaters, Saudi actress, Najat Muftah, co-stared with men in the “Life of the Emperor” play, which raised its curtains earlier this month in Riyadh, with the full support of the Entertainment Authority. In a giant leap for Saudi society, Muftah thus became the first Saudi actress ever to participate in a play presented in front of a mixed audience.