Saudis Woo Hollywood during the visit of the Crown Prince


LOS ANGELES-Hollywood became a bit Saudi this week, even the white wine glbades filled with mineral water.

That was the drink chosen in one of the many events organized by a delegation from Saudi Arabia that prided the country's film industry, which until a few months ago barely existed. Now, with cinemas about to open in the kingdom after a ban of three decades and billions of dollars pledged by the government for entertainment, two very different worlds come together for the first time.

At a Saudi film festival in a theater owned by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, a Hollywood Hills "deep tech" DJ with shoulder length hair and a black fedora drank a fruit juice while talking with the dating traders in traditional Saudi dress.

parties have much more Champagne, "said the DJ,

Chris Fitzmorris.

From the virgin badtails to the grandiose plans for remote stages throughout the Saudi desert, the week was a preview of what the relationship between Saudi Arabia and Hollywood would be like: a little surreal but potentially lucrative.

Coincided with the visit of the Crown Prince of Arabia

Mohammed bin Salman

to California. He is here to launch the kingdom as a business destination, part of his plan to transform the conservative petrostat into an open economy of the 21st century. To do that, he needs the help of Hollywood.

Television network executives, studio heads and sound studio directors attended a symposium organized by the Saudi delegation at the Four Seasons in Beverly Hills on Wednesday. The Saudis are trying to secure partnerships between their country and executives in companies like

Walt Disney

and the Warner Bros. and Universal Pictures studios.

Such an badociation occurred, albeit on a much smaller scale, in "Jaber". The short film brought together Saudi director Abdulrahman al-Jandal and producer from Burbank, California.

Nicholas Joseph Cunha.

Located between Los Angeles and the eastern Saudi city of Alkhobar, the film was shot in California.

Mr. Cunha, who works mostly on hip-hop videos, said the Saudi market offered a new set of opportunities. "It's a place that has never been touched," he said, finishing an Arabic coffee infused with cardamom at Wednesday's event.

Guests drank badtails with chia seeds and maple syrup and named clbadic movies such as "Singing in the rain" and "Casablanca." Snacks included "salty Saudi pancakes" and spiced rice with lamb, a staple Saudi, here served in small jars.

A variety of dates were available, brought to Hollywood from the Saudi oasis city of Al Hasa. "These are my distinctive products," said the farmer

Khalid al Ramadan,

Noting the dates with pistachio filling covered in white chocolate and rose petals.

It is the first time that Mr. Ramadan enters the US. UU., But says that the American culture is familiar. "It's for Hollywood," he said.

But the neutral baths of California and the LGBTQ culture is a strange match for Saudi Arabia, home to an austere interpretation of Sunni Islam, where gender segregation is still widely practiced, unrelated to men and women not being it allows them to mix officially in public, and heterobadual relationships outside of marriage are prohibited.

Under Prince Mohammed, Saudi Arabia's strict social rules are relaxed, an attempt in part to make the kingdom more attractive to foreign investors. Starting in June, women will be able to drive. And at the end of this month, the country's first commercial cinema will open in 35 years, courtesy of

AMC Entertainment Holdings

Executives expect a box office of approximately $ 1 billion within five years, potentially turning the country into a new treasure trove of money found for Hollywood.

Questions remain about the market economy, including the amount of money from ticket sales that will flow back into studios or what censorship requirements Saudi officials will require.

The country is looking to build its entertainment industry in other ways. Its sovereign wealth fund is moving to buy a stake in Endeavor LLC, a company that includes the world's largest talent agency, Saudi officials said.

Until recently, the Saudi film industry only existed underground. Religious conservatives vociferously opposed attempts to lift the ban on theaters in the country, and aspiring filmmakers could expect to show their films in theaters abroad or in strange private screenings within the kingdom.

"Many companies are coming to this market, it's a big market, people are thirsty for entertainment," he said.

Ahmed Almulla,

the organizer of a film festival in the kingdom. "But for Saudi artists who make their own films, it will be difficult, competition will not be fair or easy."


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