Saudi Arabia will get its first public cinema under state oil giant Saudi Aramco’s plans to build a museum and cultural centre in the Eastern Province to commemorate its 75th anniversary.

Aramco is inviting selected local and international companies to prequalify for the contract to build the King Abdulaziz Centre for Knowledge & Culture.

Companies have been asked to express their interest in developing the project by 25 October. A shortlist of prequalified companies will then be drawn up and tenders issued.

Aramco is building the centre, in the Dhahran area of the Eastern Province, on the site of the first well in the kingdom to produce oil in commercial quantities: well number seven on the oil-rich Dammam Dome.

The centre will cover an area of 65,000 square metres. It is designed to resemble five pebbles standing in the desert and will be clad in stainless steel, which Aramco says, will reflect the sun’s rays, and make it visible from long distances.

There will be five main interconnected buildings, the tallest of which will be 15 storeys high. They will house exhibition halls, a museum, an auditorium and theatre, a mosque, a library and the cinema.

The initial designs have been completed by Norway’s Snohetta as lead architect, and three UK firms: Buro Happold, the structural and mechanical engineer; Davis Langdon, the cost manager; and Davis Langdon Schumann Smith, the design project manager.

The wider project team also includes Saud Consult as the local consultant, Canada’s Lord as the museum consultant and the US’ Theatre Projects Consultants.

The project team now plans to complete the design and scheduling for the centre with the assistance of a contractor.

The construction contract will be carried out in two phases. The first phase will be carried out on a cost-reimbursable basis, and involves contractors providing pre-construction services, such as assisting with the design, preparing construction packages, and the procurement of materials and sub contracts.

The other package will be a lump-sum contract for the construction of the centre.

King Abdullah bin Abdulaziz bin Saud held a groundbreaking ceremony for the centre, which is scheduled to open to the public in 2012, at the site in May.

The main auditorium will be able to seat up to 1,000 visitors, while the cinema will have capacity for 320 people.

The public library will hold 300,000 books, and the museum will host exhibitions of art and artefacts from Saudi Arabia, as well as international collections.