O3 Productions and Image Nation Abu Dhabi have partnered to co-finance and co-produce a slate of Saudi films to service the opening of the first cinemas in two generations in Saudi Arabia. O3 is the drama and film production arm of MBC Group, the largest private media company in the Middle East & North Africa region, and Image Nation Abu Dhabi is a leading media and entertainment company in the Middle East.

This comes as Saudi Arabia has a presence at Cannes with The Saudi Film Council in town for the first time this year along with a Saudi Film Pavilion at the Marche du Film and a selection of Saudi short films showing as part of the festival’s industry program. It also comes as the Saudi Film Council announced a production rebate to attract international productions to film in the Kingdom. The hope is that Saudi could become a billion dollar a year film business. MBC is expected to hold a big presence in the distribution of film in Saudi Arabia.

There will be four film projects under the new deal, designed to film in Saudi and put Saudi talent in front of and behind the camera. Plan is to start production on all four next year. One of the projects is Love Above The Law, a comedy about a middle class Saudi man marrying a girl from the Badiya, the rural community, as the two discover they actually have much in common. Saudi comedian/writer Fahad Al Butairi, who previously collaborated with Image Nation on From A To B and the upcoming Rashid And Rajab, is writing.

This MBC/O3 Saudi deal follows a film/TV pact that MBC and Image Nation announced last year. That deal has the companies in advance development on the feature film adaptation of Saudi pop culture smash Hwjn, about a devout God-fearing Jinn who forges a special bond with a talented Saudi female medical student. That film is being directed by Emirati filmmaker Majid Al-Ansari, who previously directed Image Nation’s Zinzana and has served as executive producer on a number of Image Nation’s other projects. Filming begins in the fall. Also coming is a spinoff of the TV series The Delusionist, a take on modern Saudi and Arab society.

“There is so much to be done in this brave new drive and we believe in collaboration with those who have same ambitions and vision, said Fadi Ismail, Group Director of O3 Productions. “Image Nation is a trusted and established player in the film industry and we have joined forces to launch a slate of Saudi films that will promote Saudi storytelling and talents. MBC Group – via its Drama and Film production arm – is keen to push Saudi storytelling, through Drama and Film, qualitatively and quantitatively, to new heights – thus creating premium content that not only is captivating to Saudi and regional viewers, but can travel globally and help in further projecting the positive image of KSA as an active player in international entertainment industry.”

Said Ben Ross, Head of Narrative Film and Television at Image Nation: “As Saudi Arabia begins a new chapter in its cinematic history, this exciting partnership between Image Nation, MBC and O3 will showcase the very best Saudi film making talent in front of and behind the camera. We are one of the first foreign companies investing in Saudi content and are looking forward to introducing new Saudi talent to local, regional and global audiences. We’re delighted to be working with the multi-talented Fahad Al Butairi again on Love Above the Law. This deal really underscores Image Nation and MBC’s shared commitment to producing high-quality Arab language film and television projects for the Arab world.”