Eric Paquette’s Meridian Pictures Forms Partnership With Saudi Arabia’s Hakawati Entertainment – Deadline

EXCLUSIVE: The film and television company of Eric Paquette, former director of MGM and Sony Pictures, Meridian Pictures, has entered into a partnership agreement with the Saudi production house and the literary management company Hakawati Entertainment.

Under the agreement, Los Angeles Paquette will bring Hollywood talent to the Saudi entertainment sector to develop, produce and distribute original film and television content, aimed at regional and international audiences.

“Hakawati is really plugged into the local market. We will combine our diverse expertise to create content, not only local language films but also in English for audiences around the world,” said Paquette.

“Since I left Sony a year and a half ago, I have 35 projects. A lot of them could shoot there,” continued the exec, who officially launched Meridian Pictures in 2021.

Meridian projects that could lend themselves to the partnership included the previously announced action thriller Daddy Alpha Heavywhich takes place on a commercial airline, and an untitled love story against a bus crash, he suggested, though a slate has yet to be set.

Saudi Arabia has ambitions to become a major center for film and television production as part of its Vision 2030 strategy to move the economy away from dependence on oil revenues, which has seen the country lift its cinema ban 35 years old at the end of 2017.

As part of this initiative, the territory officially launched a 40% cash rebate for international and local productions last May and is currently in the process of establishing state-of-the-art film and television production centers on the Al-Ula and Neom sites.

The country has also pledged to open 2,600 movie theaters by 2030. With around 50% of its growing population of 36.5 million currently under the age of 25, the country is poised to become one of the biggest box office territories in Europe, Middle East and Africa Region.

Hakawati Entertainment was launched in 2020 by a team of Saudi entrepreneurs and industry experts. Redha Alhaider leads the company as president. He is flanked by CEO Osama AlKhurayji and COO Sarah Bin Obaid.

Alhaider was at the forefront of Saudi Arabia’s opening up to film and television as the former head of its General Audiovisual Media Commission (GCAM) in 2017 and 2018.

“I had a number of zooms with Osama AlKhurayji and I speak to Redha once a week. They are really excited about it and I feel honoured. There are a lot of producers in Hollywood that they could have contacted . I couldn’t be more excited to do this with them. It’s an untapped place,” Paquette said.

Hakawati’s credits to date include the hit series Uremfollowing the adventures of an unlucky man who agrees to work as a taxi driver, and sundosa sitcom about a busy businessman suddenly arrives with the daily care of his family.

“We are thrilled to unveil this unique cooperation platform in the Kingdom that will bring Hollywood talent and expertise here to foster local media industry and culture,” Alhaidar said.

CEO Alkhurayji added, “It’s an exciting time for us at Hakawati Entertainment, with this partnership facilitating the growth of the industry and cementing our role in its future.”

Films and TV shows produced under the partnership will benefit from the new 40% cashback and the partners are also speaking with “various parties around the world who have expressed interest in underwriting” productions from the partnership.

According to Paquette, a longer-term goal would be to shoot English and Arabic versions of the same production side-by-side, using the same set and resources, but different cast and crew.

“It’s never been done but that’s what I want to do because if you have a script that works like an English movie and an Arabic language movie, why not do it in both languages,” said he declared.

About Leni Loberns

Check Also

Biden ‘has no intention of meeting Saudi crown prince at G20’

With US-Saudi relations strained again over Riyadh’s recent support for oil production cuts, US President …