Well, that didn’t last long…
It was only five months ago that Hollywood was courting the Saudi Royal Family in Los Angeles with hopes that the Saudi government would in return shower Hollywood with billions of foreign dollars that they couldn’t make here in the United States. Well, it looks like the Hollywood-Saudi relationship is over before it even got off the ground. The Hollywood Reporter is now reporting that WME, one of Hollywood’s most powerful talent agencies has announced that they have backed out of a $400 million dollar deal that would have given the Saudi government as much of 10% of the company.
This move was made after the development story of the possible murder of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi, a writer for The Washington Post who was allegedly tortured and killed by the Saudi government. The fact that the country has been known as a state sponsor of international Islamic terrorism as well a country of poor civil rights of its citizens is not a surprise. The Saudis have even been using the WWE (World Wrestling Entertainment) to push the country’s so-called Saudi Vision 2030 plan which is a promise to become a more progressive nation in the next couple of decades. Such comprises of the deal includes allowing women the right to drive and attend sporting events (However, WWE’s female wrestlers are not allowed to perform in the country). While the vast majority of these companies understood the issues with doing business with a country like Saudi Arabia, money talks at the end of the day and the reality were the Saudis have billions to invest in American pop culture and Hollywood was lining up for their cut.
Back in April, Mohammed bin Salman was treated to an all-star welcoming party in Bel Air which included WME’s Ari Emmanuel, Disney’s Bob Iger, Rupert Murdoch, Universal chairman Jeff Shell, Fox studio chief Stacey Snider, Morgan Freeman, Michael Douglas and Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson.
The reason behind Hollywood jumping into bed with the Saudis is believed to be due to the falling relationship between Hollywood’s biggest cash cow, China. According to The LA Times, In 2016, Chinese investment in the U.S. entertainment industry hit $4.78 billion, an all-time high. But by 2017 that number dwindled to some $500 million, as the Chinese government has not only cracked down on foreign investments but the Communist government has cracked down even harder on their film industry for alleged tax fraud which has shaken up many entertainment deals in that country as well.
With a Saudi Arabia deal that looks to be going up in flames, a Chinese government that looks to be investing less in Hollywood while it cracks down on its own film industry, Hollywood is an industry without a backer at the moment. Given the industry’s aggressive Progressive politics, they have burned a lot of bridges with their own home market in the United States that currently only represents about 35% of the overall box office for Hollywood films. Right now, it is going to be pretty difficult for the industry to find another international backer with deep pockets that don’t have a ‘problematic’ agenda like Communist China and Saudi Arabia. May we suggest a relationship with Russian oligarchs?