Middle East Exhibitor Vox Cinemas Ramps Up Investment in Arab Production, Unveils Slate at Red Sea Film Festival


Top Middle East exhibitor Vox Cinemas, which is also active in distribution and production, is ramping up its investment in producing Arabic feature films and unveiling its first full-fledged slate of local original movies at Saudi Arabia’s Red Sea Film Festival.

Vox’s Arabic line-up caters to local market demands by providing commercially viable works in a range of different genres, directed both by Arab newcomers and known names and starring top talents such as Egyptian star Nelly Karim (pictured) who is on the Red Sea fest’s main jury. 

Karim is co-starring with popular actors Mohamed Farrag and Bayoumi Fouad (“A Stand Worthy of Men”) in the ensemble dramedy “Voy! Voy! Voy!” that is being launched and teased at the fest today with a press conference and sneak peak footage. 

“Voy! Voy! Voy!” marks the directorial debut of hotshot Egyptian commercials director Omar Hilal. Vox is producing the crowdpleasing pic in tandem with Egypt’s Film Clinic, the shingle headed by prominent producer Mohamed Hefzy, and Image Nation Abu Dhabi.

“It is an exciting time for Arabic film, which has been gaining plaudits and audiences in the region and beyond – and tends to outperform foreign films,” said in a statement Ignace Lahoud, CEO of Majid Al Futtaim Leisure (MAF), Entertainment and Cinemas, which operates Vox.

Lahoud added that “Distinctly local productions, particularly in a nascent market like Saudi Arabia, offer an untapped and real opportunity,” further noting that “As the leading cinema company in the region” Vox is “committed to growing a sustainable Arabic film industry.”

Here is a rundown of the Vox Cinemas Arabic film slate

– Vox and Image Nation, which already had a production partnership in place, have teamed up with Saudi-owned MBC Studios on “HWJN,” an adaptation of the best-selling Saudi fantasy/sci-fi/romance novel by the same title. Dubai-based Iraqi director Yasir Al Yasiri (“On Borrowed Time”) is directing the pic which is due for theatrical release across the Middle East next year.

– Vox, Image Nation, and MBC Studios have also teamed on “King of the Ring,” a Saudi remake of hit South Korean slapstick wrestling comedy “The Foul King” that is screening at the Red Sea fest.

– Vox will join forces with Sirb Productions, the sister company of Saudi Arabia’s Myrkott animation studio – who are known for taboo-breaking hit youth cartoon series “Masameer County” – to produce a live-action film from the show’s creators Abdulaziz Almuzaini and Malek Nejer that is being billed simply as a Saudi comedy. They are hoping to replicate the success of “Masameer: The Movie,” which was distributed theatrically by Vox and became one of the highest grossing Saudi films ever.

– Also on the Vox slate is an unspecified Egyptian action-comedy by director Hadi El Bagoury who recently helmed Netflix’s Egyptian original series “Finding Ola.” Pic is a partnership with Cairo-based The Producers, the company behind “Hepta – The Last Lecture,” which in 2016 was the highest grossing romantic drama in Egypt, and also “Sheikh Jackson,” the film about a conservative Muslim cleric tormented by a burning passion for Michael Jackson which went to Toronto, and “Excuse My French”

– Vox has also joined forces with The Big Picture Studios, a company which is part of Beirut-based Imagic Group, on their debut feature film. The still untitled film’s script is the result of a writers’ workshop hosted by Vox Cinemas with new voices from Egypt, Saudi Arabia and Lebanon “as part of its commitment to ensure authenticity and relatability when developing local films,” they said.

– Vox also signed a deal with Dubai-based Blue Engine Studios, established last year by veteran Arab media execs Ziad Kebbi and Hani Ghorayeb, to develop an untitled Saudi comedy. Pic sees the the protagonist on an international rescue mission “filled with adventure, danger and bad luck.”

For Vox Cinemas, these projects are “in line with its strategy to foster and nurture the next generation of regional storytellers,” the statement said. It noted that the exhibitor which operates more than 600 screens across the Middle East is now also investing in development with various regional production companies and actively working with Arab writers by hosting workshops while also enabling emerging filmmakers.

As Lahoud put it: “Storytelling is deeply rooted in Arabic culture, and Vox Cinemas is dedicated to cultivating the next generation of regional filmmakers and empowering them to use the language of film to tell their stories. The diversity of our Arabic slate reflects the multitude of creativity in MENA’s flourishing film industry, and as the region’s largest exhibitor, we have a great opportunity to leverage our scale and amplify these voices on the big screen.”

This post was originally published on Variety

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