The Saudi Film Commission has announced its long gestating incentive for film productions in the kingdom which consists of an up to 40% cash rebate.

Ever since it lifted its 35-year-old religion-related ban on cinema in 2017, Saudi has been experiencing a boom in all aspects of film industry activity,  becoming West Asia’s top-grossing territory in terms of theatrical box office returns. Attracting international film and TV productions is clearly a key part of this government-driven effort.

Details of the Saudi rebate, which was announced in Cannes, remain scant besides the fact that it provides up to 40% of spend in cash back for film productions that recruit Saudi crew and talent above and below the line and feature the kingdom’s “culture, history and people along with showcasing the diverse selection of landscapes in Saudi Arabia,” a statement said.

“We are delighted to open applications for our cash rebate program ‘Film Saudi’ and welcome productions to Saudi Arabia,” said Saudi Film Commission CEO Abdullah Al Eyaf in the statement.

He noted that the Saudi film industry is rapidly accelerating “as we continue to invest in training our local crews and developing our infrastructure to ensure we are in a position to support all productions.”

Saudi’s ambitions to build a film industry have been hindered by the 2018 murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi and reports that appear to implicate Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman in the assassination that prompted media companies from the U.S. and elsewhere to back off.

But Hollywood has been quietly returning.

Over the last 18 months Saudi Arabia has hosted three pics with Hollywood ties: Gerard Butler action-thriller “Kandahar,” directed by Ric Roman Waugh, which was filmed in AlUla, a sprawling area of desert and giant boulders that boasts an ancient city; British director Rupert Wyatt’s historical tentpole “Desert Warrior,” toplined by “Captain America” star Anthony Mackie, which was shot in NEOM, a futuristic city being built in the Tabuk province of northwestern Saudi Arabia; and a small segment of the Russo Brothers’ crime drama “Cherry” which shot in AlUla and the Saudi of capital Riyadh. These films all tapped into the Saudi rebate even before it was fine-tuned and made official, which it now is.

Furthermore eight Saudi feature films have been shot and completed in the kingdom over the past 12 months, according to the statement.

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