Dubai scraps 2018 film festival after cinema comes to Saudi

Dubai scraps 2018 film festival after cinema comes to Saudi
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A Saudi man poses for a photograph during a cinema test screening in Riyadh on April 18, 2018. Blockbuster action flick "Black Panther" play at a cinema test screening in Saudi Arabia on April 18, the first in a series of trial runs before movie theatres open to the wider public next month. The conservative kingdom lifted a 35-year ban on cinemas last year as part of a far-reaching liberalisation drive, with US giant AMC Entertainment granted the first licence to operate movie theatres. / AFP PHOTO / Fayez Nureldine

Dubai: The Dubai International Film Festival, the top cinematic event in the Arab world, has been cancelled for 2018 but will be staged from 2019 every two years, organisers said Thursday.

The announcement came a day after neighbouring Saudi Arabia, a close ally of the United Arab Emirates, unveiled its first cinema after a decades-long ban.

“The strategic shift aims to embrace the significant changes taking place in the region’s creative and entertainment landscape,” organisers said on the festival’s website.

The 14-year-old festival will now be held every other year, according to organisers, with the 2019 dates yet to be determined.

International theatre chains have long eyed Saudi Arabia as the Middle East’s last untapped mass market with its more than 30 million residents, the majority aged under 25.

Saudis have been splurging billions of dollars annually to see films and visit amusement parks in neighbouring tourist hubs like Dubai and Bahrain.

Agence France-Presse