Saudi Arabia’s Film AlUla begins studio complex construction

Saudi Arabia’s Film AlUla, the film agency of the Royal Commission for AlUla (RCU), has announced the start of construction on the first phase of its ambitious new film and TV studio complex.

The first phase will encompass approximately 330,000 square feet (30,000 square metres) and is scheduled to be up and running for the fourth quarter of 2023.

The complex will feature two soundstages, production support buildings, workshops, a pyro/sfx building, catering facility and admin building plus a 70,000 square feet (6,500 sq m) backlot and a sound recording studio.

Saudi Arabia’s Film AlUla begins studio complex construction

The complex will also be near 12 square kilometres of dedicated outdoor shooting locations that showcase the landscape and ancient heritage sites of AlUla.

Located in northwest Saudi Arabia, AlUla is home to two mountain ranges, three volcanoes and the UNESCO World Heritage Site of Hegra.

The area is at the heart of the country’s efforts to attract local and international productions to shoot in the region, combined with a cashback rebate of up to 40% for both international and local productions.

A large delegation of Hollywood names, in Saudi Arabia for the second edition of Red Sea International Film Festival in Jeddah, also visited AlUla this week, with guests including director Guy Richie and actors Scott Eastwood, Lucy Hale, and Henry Golding.

“AlUla is a thriving center for arts, culture and heritage. With the film and screen sector of central focus the first phase of this studio complex is carefully planned and part of a much larger program of infrastructure development,” said Charlene Deleon-Jones, Executive Director of Film AlUla.

“This complex will satisfy the growing demand from regional and international producers to shoot at AlUla, while also supplying an epicentre for our production ecosystem. The studio complex will diversify AlUla’s economy, in line with the objectives of RCU, as we build a home to nurture Saudi talent in the screen sector for generations to come.”

Film AlUla said it had worked with the US-based live-experience company Tait to ensure that the production experience at AlUla would be thoroughly uncluttered and comfortable, including during the summer months.

The studio complex will be 14 minutes from the Film AlUla Residence, which has 300 rooms, restaurants, recreational facilities and office space for industry professionals, and 20 minutes from AlUla International Airport, which recently opened a hangar for private jets. The studio complex lies outside the airport’s flight path.

Details of phase two will be announced in the second quarter of 2023.

Film AlUla has hosted 694 production days since opening in 2020. Features to have been filmed there have included Kandahar, directed by Ric Roman Waugh and starring Gerard Butler, which was the first major Hollywood feature to shoot almost entirely in AlUla.

Additional productions have included the Iraq war story Cherry, starring Tom Holland and directed by Anthony and Joe Russo; and Norah, the first Saudi feature film to be shot at AlUla and featuring an all-Saudi cast and over 40% Saudi crew.

A number of TV productions have been filmed in AlUla including the British series Expedition with Steve Backshall and Nat Geo documentaries, along with commercials, promos, photo shoots and short films.