A Saudi film is set to premiere in Vox Cinemas for first time


“Roll’em”, a film shot in Saudi that was developed, written and produced over three years with an all-Saudi crew, from the actors to the sound director, is set to premiere in Vox Cinemas in Jeddah’s Red Sea Mall for the first time on Wednesday. Vox cinema will have a private screening on Wednesday and a public one on Thursday.

“Roll’em” is directed and produced by Abdulelah Al-Qurashi, co-produced by Abdulrahman Khoja and screenwriter Yasser Hammad. “Roll’em” is a co-production with Saudi film production company Cinepoetics, owned by Khoja.

The film tells the story of a Saudi filmmaker named Omar Nizar who, while on a journey to discover Jeddah, meets a retired cinematographer whose glory days were in the 1970s as he divided his time between France and Cairo.

“It’s a Jeddawi film to the core. The post-production was in Egypt. The areas where we don’t have expertise in we had to outsource, but everything that had to do with the creative work is purely Saudi. The idea (for the characters) came up from a joke actually. I was pretending to be an old cinematographer and using Hejazi words and the accent. It inspired me to create a character. We had our inspiration from actual film directors from the 1970s in Saudi Arabia that no one knows about. They tried to pursue the same dreams we had, but failed because of their circumstances. The idea is someone has a dream and wants to achieve it, but the circumstances aren’t allowing him to. The difference between the two generations makes the difference. Why can we make films today, and why couldn’t we make them back then?,” Hammad told Arab News.

Hammad said having the film screened in Jeddah “is like a dream come true,” adding: “Without this city, I wouldn’t be able to create art.”

Naif Al-Daferi, who plays Mohannad in the film, told Arab News: “The audience will see a different image of Jeddah … To add to that, the story talks about someone who’s struggling in the field of filmmaking in capturing Jeddah. There’s entertainment value, the characters are diverse and the cast is incredible. Al-Qurashi is a true filmmaker.”

Jeddah’s first cinema opened its doors to the public in January, and an industry expert said he expected up to 35 million people in the Kingdom to go to the movies every year.

Cinemas were banned in the country for decades until last April when Saudi Arabia made history by opening its first ever public cinema after a 35-year ban.

Cameron Mitchell, CEO of the regional cinema chain Majid Al Futtaim, said Saudi Arabia had the capacity for high audience numbers. He was speaking at the opening ceremony for Vox Cinemas in Jeddah‘s Red Sea Mall, reported Arab News. “If you look at Dubai we have some 15 million customers there per annum. On the short-term goal in Saudi Arabia we are expecting the market to reach about 30 million customers,” he said.

Research from PwC Middle East in November estimated that total cinema revenue in Saudi Arabia would reach $1.5 billion by 2030. The forecast was based on a projected 2030 population of 39.5 million, and 6.6 screens per 100,000 people. Last year, Vox Cinemas said it would be investing $533 million to open 600 theaters in the next five years.

“Some 95 percent of our employees here are from Saudi Arabia. We expect the cinemas in the Red Sea Mall to be showing a mix of films, probably about 300 films per year with at least six new movies every single week. It will take a while for us to have enough cinemas for everyone to get to go to the cinema whenever they want to. In my opinion, the cinema is a good place for families to spend time together in a social environment, especially in hot summer days, when outdoor activities are limited,” Mitchell said.

There will be cinemas in Tabuk by the end of this year or by early 2020 and the Saudi government has been very helpful, he said, adding: “We got the license last April and we were keen to do the required steps and follow the regulations, and that went smoothly.”

The historic lifting of the longstanding ban on public cinemas came amidst sweeping social changes and women’s rights reforms, marking another historic milestone for Saudi Arabia.


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