Cirque du Soleil Heads to Saudi Arabia in New Deal

Prince Mohammed bin Salman - Getty - H 2018
Kevin Dietsch-Pool/Getty Images

The news coincides with Saudi Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman's whirlwind trip to Los Angeles.

The Saudi Arabian royalty tour of Hollywood is resulting in some industry partnerships. 

On Wednesday, at an event at the Four Seasons in Beverly Hills — which was entirely booked up by Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, whose stay in Los Angeles is part of a three-week visit in the U.S. — live entertainment partnerships with the likes of Cirque du Soleil were unveiled. 

Cirque du Soleil will produce a performance for the first time in Saudi Arabia. The production will be designed exclusively for Saudi National Day on Sept. 23 of this year and held at the King Fahd Stadium in Riyadh for a live and televised audience.

The Wednesday event, titled "Vision 2030: The Future of Entertainment in Saudi Arabia," was hosted by Ahmed Al Kahteeb, head of the country's General Entertainment Authority (GEA), who gave the afternoon's keynote, focusing on the country's younger population, 70 percent of which is under the age of 30. (The stat was reiterated multiple times by several panelists throughout the afternoon.)

Feld Entertainment is entering a long-term relationship with the country's GEA and is committed to producing international events in Saudi Arabia, including “Disney on Ice,” “Disney Live” and “Marvel Experience,” all of which will be staffed with Saudi talent.

An investing partnership with National Geographic Encounter will allow for the construction of a global immersive entertainment experience, "Ocean Odyssey." The first of 10 such planned experiences will be built in Riyadh. Finally, live-events manager IMG Artists has partnered with the authority to build out and bring custom events to Saudi Arabia.

The live-events partnerships represent the latest effort by Saudi Arabia to bolster its nascent entertainment sector. In December, bin Salman lifted a 35-year ban on cinemas in his country. On Wednesday morning, AMC Theaters announced plans to open 100 theaters in 25 Saudi cities by 2030, the first of which will bow April 18 in Riyadh. 

Prior to the panels, reps from Lionsgate, VidAngel, Nickelodeon, Miramax and Riot Games, among others, enjoyed a lunch that included dates, hummus and lamb skewers. The event featured panels with individuals from the delegation traveling with the prince, the leaders of Saudi Arabia's public investment funds and investors who have previously worked in Saudi Arabia.

The prince is in Hollywood holding court with major industry power players in L.A. all week.

On Monday night, bin Salman attended a dinner at the Bel Air home of Rupert Murdoch that was attended by Disney CEO Bob Iger, Universal film chairman Jeff Shell, Fox TV exec Peter Rice, Warner Bros. CEO Kevin Tsujihara and 20th Century Fox's Stacey Snider. In addition to Murdoch, Endeavor CEO Ari Emanuel has reportedly organized a dinner for bin Salman, who is also expected to meet with Oprah Winfrey during his U.S. trip.

After being named heir to the Saudi throne by his father, King Salman, the prince has been vocal about his push for economic and social reform. As the chairman of the Council of Economic and Development Affairs, bin Salman launched Vision 2030 as a initiative to diversify the country's investments outside of oil, which includes the possible creation of a Saudi entertainment industry.