Watching Dune in the world's must luxurious theater

Watching Dune in the world’s most luxurious theater

So, I was in Riyadh this week, speaking at the Human Capability Initiative, a platform and a conference to focus on human capability, and how we can leverage social, economic, technological and other forces to build a better world for the next generation. I met and spoke alongside many fascinating people!

Anyway, at the end of the conference, I had a little time. I thought being there would mean I would miss seeing Dune Part 2 on its opening weekend, but I was so lucky to be staying in a hotel right beside the Via Riyadh movie theater. Often called the world’s most luxurious, it certainly lived up to the billing. But better – they were showing Dune 2! It’s not cheap ~$50 a ticket. But it’s SO WORTH IT. If you’re ever in Riyadh, and there’s a good movie showing – I STRONGLY recommend it.

It’s all kind of unassuming at the beginning. From the street side, you just see this: Movie theater sign from outside

You go inside, and there isn’t a lot of fanfare, just an elevator taking you down. I figured I’d go to reception… Elevator inside the lobby

After getting my QR code scanned, I was guided down to a marble floored bar area that acted as reception. Not the usual just walk into the theater. Movie theater reception

A waiter greeted me and gave me the menu. He also gave me a welcome cocktail. They must be prescient, because for some bizarre reason I like blue drinks. Being Riyadh, this was non-alcoholic. Unfortunately, while it looks a little like dish-soap, it didn’t taste that way. It was a delicious start to the evening! Movie theater reception

Food isn’t your popcorn and boxed candy. They offer a full menu, with everything from arabic food, to sushi, to…popcorn! I didn’t capture the prices in these diagrams, but remember thinking it was quite reasonable by Riyadh standards. For exmaple the cocktails came in at 65 Ryals ($16) which about the same price as the hotel bar.

Food Menu Drinks Menu

At this point a waiter guided me through the menu and offered me a tour. He mentioned that I could order at any time, even during the movie, because he would be in the theater, standing behind my seats, at my beck and call!

I couldn’t say ‘no’ to that, and he took me through each of the theaters to see them. They’re all on different themes like ‘Orient Express,’ or ‘Wall Street’, and crazy luxurious. Here’s a few:

Watch a movie from a queen-sized bed! Queen Sized Bed Seats

A standard 8-seat theater with extra seats if you get bored in your recliner: Standard theater

Really comfy ‘bean bag’ room for private viewings: Bean bag room

It even had a ball pit in case you bring your kids! Ball pit

My favorite room was this one – following an Arabian/Bedouin theme. It was beautiful! Arabic room

The ‘Wall Street’ themed room was similar. I couldn’t see the Wall Street connection here, but it was still gorgeous! Wall Street Room

One room had a ‘Starlight’ theme. There were people watching trailers before a movie in here, but they didn’t mind me coming in to see. The sound system is excellent, and VERY LOUD, so I don’t think we disturbed them too much! Starlight room

The ceiling of the room imitated stars, and when the lights are down, I’m sure this is spectacular! Starlight ceiling

Finally, I got to my theater just as the last trailer was playing – the Godzilla versus Kong movie, which I really want to see! I was seated in a comfy recliner, given a blanket and a pillow, and within a couple of minutes the movie began. I didn’t want to photograph any of the movie for copyright reasons, but I had to snap a picture of this seat to my left, and I was sorely tempted to use it…but so engrossed in the film, that I forgot! Comfy chair

I didn’t take advantage of the food ordering, but the waiter still came by from time to time, giving wet towels, and water bottles. At one point I sneezed, and he brought me tissues!

And just to prove that I did see the movie, and to show the size of the screen, I took this shot in the closing credits! Dune credits

What you don’t see in the pictures is the sound. I’ve never experienced anything with this level of volume, while still maintaining crystal clear audio. Dune Part 2 is a LOUD movie with lots of loud bombastic music and sound effects. It’s a gourmet feast for the ears as well as the eyes. The screen, as you can see above, is large, but not gigantic. It’s LED, not projection, and sometimes if you look closely, you can see the seams between the elements of the screen. But with a great movie like Dune, you soon forget.

And as for the movie itself – I loved it. I’m a huge Dune fan, so a lot of the deep cuts in the movie, and a lot of the time they spend on details like the Geidi Prime scenes were an absolute feast. I worry that people who aren’t huge fans of the source material might feel that it drags a bit. For the most part I loved the cast. Stilgar is brilliant. Zandaya as Chani steals the show. I liked Florence Pugh’s Irulan, but would have liked to see more of her.

There were a couple of moments in the movie where I think it might have been cut differently for Saudi Arabian viewers. I’m curious if anyone has the details. One such is at the beginning when Jessica drinks something, starts having a seizure, and then….we are outside in the desert, and the subtitles went a little out of synch. Another is when a big deal is made out of paul needing to prove himself by crossing the desert alone. He begins, is joined by Chani, and they do lovely choreagraphed steps together…and then we’re into an attack on Harkonnen spice miners and the scene is forgotten. Anybody have insight on this?

Any flaws in the movie are, I think, because it still feels incomplete. This was made a little more open-ended than the book, almost as if Villeneuve wanted to do ‘Dune Messiah’ as part 3. And the sheer scope of the story is worth it. I hope the movie is a huge success and we get part 3.


One such is the pretty significant changes to Alia. I didn’t think they would work, having read about it going in, but it did. I really like this direction. Now, thinking back to 1984’s version by David Lynch, the toddler walking around dressed as a Reverend Mother looks silly. Aging Alia up in the 2000 miniseries worked better, but Villeneuve’s approach, which I won’t spoil here, is my favorite. The flash-forward scene to post-birth, teenage Alia, is all at once creepy and inspiring. I loved it.