Tags: hollywood | saudi | jamal khashoggi | journalist

Hollywood, Saudi Ties Fray Amid Missing Journalist Probe

mohammed bin salman poses with richard branson during his visit to the virgin galactic company in california in April.

(Bandar Algaloud/Saudi Kingdom Council/Handout/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)

By    |   Tuesday, 16 October 2018 06:51 PM

Hollywood’s budding relationship with Saudi Arabia has reportedly soured in the wake of the disappearance and alleged slaying of Saudi journalist and critic Jamal Khashoggi.

Citing an unnamed source, Vanity Fair reported that talent agency Endeavor, which had entered a deal to get $400 million from the Saudi Public Investment Fund in exchange for a 5 to 10 percent ownership stake, was working towards breaking the arrangement. Endeavor is the parent company of WME and UFC.

Also, actor Gerard Butler canceled a plan to fly to Saudi Arabia this week to promote his new movie, “Hunter Killer,” telling reporters “it felt incredibly insensitive to go to Saudi Arabia,” the outlet reported.

And a spokesman for the WWE, which has to host a major wrestling event in Saudi Arabia in November, said they are “currently monitoring the situation,” VF reported.

It’s a big change from five months ago, when Hollywood producers and agents mingled with the first-ever delegation from Saudi Arabia’s General Culture Authority at the Cannes Film Festival.

Ahmad Al Maziad, the CEO of the authority, vowed at the event: “We’re coming to build an industry,” VF reported.

The entertainment industry had been boosted by the kingdom’s controversial young crown prince, Mohammed bin Salman, who as part of a coast-to-coast U.S. charm offensive last spring met with media moguls like Disney CEO Bob Iger, Fox’s Rupert Murdoch, and Oprah Winfrey, VF reported. 

“He made an impassioned plea to me to consider building Disneyland in Saudi Arabia, and I listened with curiosity and somewhat of an open mind,” Iger later told an audience at the Council of Foreign Relations. “I ended up saying that I would visit and see for myself. . . . Whether we grow or not there, I don’t know, but I’ll go.”

Others have been skeptical all along, VF reported.

“Hollywood’s business in Saudi Arabia has been somewhat of a smoke screen,” one unnamed studio source told VF. “It’s a potentially interesting market, but it’s not in the near future a game changer. A lot of people have announced things because it sounded good.”

“There are only three theaters there now and very few movies can get through the [censorship issues],” the source added, VF reported. “One day it could be a big market, but it’s not going to be if the human-rights violations continue.”

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Hollywood's budding relationship with Saudi Arabia has reportedly soured in the wake of the disappearance and alleged slaying of Saudi journalist and critic Jamal Khashoggi.
hollywood, saudi, jamal khashoggi, journalist
Tuesday, 16 October 2018 06:51 PM
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