| 17 August, 2017

Saudi Arabia's Comic-Con eyes roll-out to other Saudi cities

First Comic-Con event in Saudi in February attracted over 22,000 attendees

A panel debate takes place at the first Saudi Comic-Con event, which took place in February 2017. Organiser Time Entertainment plans to roll out the event to other Saudi cities.

A panel debate takes place at the first Saudi Comic-Con event, which took place in February 2017. Organiser Time Entertainment plans to roll out the event to other Saudi cities.

17 August 2017

Saudi Arabia’s Comic-Con entertainment event is set to expand from its original base in Jeddah to another city in the kingdom within three years, the executive director of the event’s organiser has said.

In February, more than 22,000 participants dressed up in special costumes, painted their faces, queued up to meet robots and giant animation figures and played video games at the first-of-its-kind comic book convention and entertainment event in Saudi Arabia. The event was hosted in tents in the coastal city of Jeddah, with ticket prices ranging from 105 Saudi riyals ($28) to 893 riyals.

“In three years, the goal is to start having the exhibition in two cities and in the next phase, which is after six or seven years, depending on the market, we can take it to the next level to three cities,” Obada Awad, the executive director of Riyadh-based Time Entertainment told Zawya in an interview on Thursday.

Time Entertainment is the company that organises the Comic-Con event in Saudi Arabia, and Awad said he believed the inaugural event was a success.

“We sold out before the event and people kept coming asking for tickets. There was a huge demand - even I was surprised,” he said.

Saudi Comic-Con was carried out under the supervision of the recently-founded Saudi General Entertainment Authority, which has hosts a series of festivals, concerts, comedy shows and other events. Until recently, such events were uncommon in the kingdom and were usually opposed by powerful, conservative religious groups.

“Saudi Arabia is a country that is on the verge of change. A lot of people love this type of content and a lot of people are interested,” Awad said, adding that although there were some people who did not support the event, as yet there have been no protests or threats against it.

The Comic-Con tents were open to both men and women. “The tickets were general tickets. There were no tickets for males and other tickets for females," Awad said. "You buy a ticket and get in. It is a public area for males and females. However, there was a closed tent that covers 10 percent of the exhibition space. This area is only for females, where they can take off their abaya and get creative."

Awad said the next Comic-Con event, which is due to take place again in February next year, is expected to draw an even bigger crowd . “It will be better. I cannot tell you more than that. The goal is to always achieve more and do better. We will always deliver more,” he added.

“We don’t want to have another Las Vegas”

Awad, 27, said that his company’s long-term vision is to provide the Arab region with entertainment events that suit the region’s culture.

“Our vision is to have entertainment options in the region that fit our traditions, targeted to us, system-tailored to us because in the Arab world we don’t want to have another Las Vegas.  We want entertainment tailored to us and that is what happened in Saudi Comic-Con,” Awad said.

“The goal is to have such events up to the highest international standards,” he added.

Awad said that there were 1,500 organisers from different countries working on the first Saudi Comic-Con event. He said the event’s funds are typically provided by Time Entertainment, but some projects were co-funded with the government.

The Comic-Con concept was introduced to Saudi Arabia in mid-2015 at a time when the kingdom was working on an economic reform plan that it launched a year later with the goal of diversifying its economy away from oil revenue. The plan included proposals to broaden Saudi Arabia’s tourism appeal and its media industry, its culture sector and the arts.

For Awad, there was also a vision behind the establishment of Comic-Con: “Our goal was to provide new ideas, new entertainment concepts, and that is why we started Comic-Con.”

© Zawya 2017