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MENA exhibitor VOX Cinemas sets first slate of original Arabic films

Dubai-based Middle Eastern exhibition giant Vox Cinemas has unveiled its first slate of original Arabic films, which it is producing under a commitment first announced in 2021 to make 25 films out of the region in five years.

The company, which operates 600 cinema theatres across the Middle East, announced the new projects on the second day of Saudi Arabia’s Red Sea International Film Festival which it is sponsoring this year.

They include Iraqi Dubai-based director Yasir Al Yasiri’s Hwjn. Based on a best-selling Saudi YA novel, it revolves around a mythical jinn whose world is turned upside-down when a human family moves into their home.

The production marks the third collaboration between VOX Cinemas, Image Nation Abu Dhabi and MBC Studios, under an alliance first announced at the Cannes Film Festival in 2019 to launch a major production partnership for film and TV projects across the Middle East.

Previous collaborations under the alliance include King of the Ring, a Saudi remake of the South Korean comedy-drama hit The Foul King, which screens at the Red Sea Film Festival.

Further titles on the slate include the Egyptian drama Voy! Voy! Voy!, which is a collaboration between VOX Cinemas, Cairo-based company Film Clinic and Image Nation Abu Dhabi. It will be ready for a 2023 release.

The production is described as a dramedy based on real events and will have an ensemble cast featuring Egyptian stars such as Mohamed Farrag, Nelly Karim and Bayoumi Foaud, alongside up-and-coming talent Taha Desouky, Amgad El Hagar and Mohamed Abdel Azeem.

VOX Cinemas is also joining forces with Saudi Arabia’s Sirb Productions, a sister company of Myrkott Animation Studio and the masterminds behind the ground-breaking Masameer franchise, to produce a comedy, live-action film.

Creators Abdulaziz Almuzaini and Malek Nejer say they want to recreate the success of Masameer: The Movie, which was distributed theatrically by VOX Cinemas and enjoyed box office success across the region, becoming one of the highest-grossing Saudi films ever.

The slate also features Egyptian director Hadi El Bagoury’s first Egyptian action-comedy. The production is in partnership with Cairo-based company The Producers, which produced the box office hit Hepta as well as Sheikh Jackson and Excuse My French.

VOX Cinemas has also joined forces with Lebanese company Imagic Group’s The Big Picture Studios on their debut feature film. The script is the result of a writers’ workshop hosted by VOX Cinemas with emerging talents from Egypt, Saudi Arabia and Lebanon.

The company has also signed a deal with Blue Engine Studios, which was established by media industry veterans Ziad Kebbi and Hani Ghorayeb, to develop a Saudi comedy revolving around a daring but ill-fated international rescue mission.

“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 Ignace Lahoud, CEO of Vox Cinemas parent company Majid Al Futtaim Leisure, Entertainment & Cinemas said,

“Distinctly local productions, particularly in a nascent market like Saudi Arabia, offer an untapped and real opportunity. As the leading cinema company in the region, we are committed to growing a sustainable film industry and believe that establishing a dynamic content ecosystem is integral to achieving this goal.

“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.”

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