Saudi Arabia to offer $133m in loans to 50 new entertainment projects

Saudi Arabia’s General Entertainment Authority (GEA) has signed an agreement with the Social Development Bank to provide SR500 million ($133 million) worth of loans for entertainment projects.

“The agreement aims to provide soft loans to finance quality investment opportunities in order to contribute to the growth and sustainability of the entertainment sector and increase the share of its local content, in accordance with Saudi Vision 2030’s goals,” GEA spokesman Saad Al-Ahmari told Arab News.

The new agreement aims to finance no less than 50 new entertainment projects in the Kingdom, Al-Ahmari said.

“The Social Development Bank will present project funding to small and medium-sized enterprises through its ‘Ufuq’ program with a total value of SR10 million and will support entrepreneurs through both monetary and nonmonetary solutions,” he added.

The entertainment sector is a key element of the cultural goals set out as part of Vision 2030, which aims to increase household expenditure in the sector from 2.9 percent to 6 percent by the end of the decade.

The GEA was established in 2016 and Chairman Turki bin Abdulmohsen Al-Sheikh in May announced the results of the “Ideas for Entertainment” initiative. From the more than 12,000 proposals submitted to the project, the top 20 ideas were selected.

The top submission was “The Grove,” which is described as “a rich experience encompassing an array of activities such as theatrical and musical performances, hiking expeditions and more.”

The Saudi entertainment and amusement sector is forecast to be worth $1.17 billion by 2030 and grow by a massive 47.65 percent per year, according to a recent industry report.

The US-based Research and Markets study said that the growth compares with just $23.77 million in 2020.

“The entertainment industry of Saudi Arabia is growing massively. Saudi Arabia has been putting its best effort to build a unique and world-class entertainment hub that includes innovative rides, cultural or historical attractions, and mega sporting events,” the report said.

One of the biggest entertainment investments in the Kingdom is the Qiddiya project. Announced in 2017, work at the site — located just a 40-minute drive from the capital — began in April the following year.

The city — which will cover more than 366 square kilometers of land — will host a Formula One racing track, a Six Flags theme park, a water park, sports facilities including football stadiums and development infrastructure for young Saudi athletes, and an extensive range of cultural, creative and artistic activities.

One of the big breakthroughs came in April 2018, when Saudi Arabia’s 35-year ban on cinemas was lifted. As a result, some of the world’s biggest cinema operators have moved into the Kingdom.

In December 2020, AMC Entertainment Holdings, the world’s largest movie exhibition company, opened a sixth movie theater in Saudi Arabia as part of its plans to expand to 50 locations by 2024.

AMC also established the Saudi Cinema Co., a joint venture with Saudi Entertainment Ventures, an entity set up by the Public Investment Fund to become the state investment and development arm for the entertainment sector.

UAE-based chain VOX Cinemas also plans to build 600 screens across the Kingdom by 2023 as part of a SR2 billion ($533 million) investment.