The decision comes in an effort to cultivate a home-grown leisure industry
The Kingdom’s primary sovereign wealth fund will set up a network of entertainment centres across the country, according to a statement by Abdullah al-Dawood, Chairman of Development and Investment Entertainment Company (DIEC), the company carrying out the plan said on Sunday, adding that his firm envisaged about 20 centres, each around 50,000 to 100,000 square metres in 14 or 15 cities, according to Reuters.
Private companies will be invited to invest alongside DIEC on a commercial basis, aiming to set the centres up over the next several years, Dawood said.
According to Reuters, the centres are to feature entertainment facilities such as cinemas as well as venues for public performances — part of a government plan to foster a flowering of Saudi art and culture — along with restaurants and retail space.
The Government is focused on changing the decades-long social restrictions that had left the Kingdom with minimal forms of public entertainment, in part because it wants to use the leisure sector to create jobs and diversify away from its reliance on oil.
Although DIEC, with initial funding of SAR10 billion riyals provided by the Public Investment Fund, will take the lead in major entertainment industry projects, Dawood stressed that it intended all of its projects to be commercially viable.
Dawood, also chief executive of Al Tayyar Travel Group, one of Saudi Arabia’s top travel companies, said on Sunday that DIEC also planned to establish two other clusters of theme parks: one in the Jeddah area and one on the other side of the country in Eastern Province, according to Reuters.