Egyptian Film Woes A Taxing Situation

The ship appears to be sinking on the Arab world’s pioneering film industry.

Egyptian cinema managed only 21 titles in 1994, according to the Film Producer’s Assn. – down from 72 in 1993 and a low from the nearly 100 features in many previous years.

Why is Hollywood-on-the-Nile tanking after more than 70 years in the biz?

The Egyptian government is usually blamed, largely because it seems to treat filmmaking as a taxation milk cow rather than a potentially valuable export industry.

Film producers point out that the government imposes no less than 36 different taxes and fees on producers, distributors and exhibitors between a film’s inception and its arrival at the moviehouse – with at least six different ministries getting in on the take.

The levies range from the hefty to the penny-ante.

For example, there’s a 40% tax on theater tix by the Finance Ministry. But there are also such additional taxes as 3&cents; per ticket for the Interior Ministry’s Police Benevolent Society, and another 3&cents; for the Ministry of Social Affairs.

The Ministry of Culture – to which the state censor’s office is attached – rakes off nuisance fees from producers simply for having the censor read the script prior to filming, then more fees for giving permission to shoot, and yet more for permission to release and distribute the finished product.

The Ministry of Tourism gets into the act too, charging $75 an hour for filmers to use as backdrops such sites as the Great Pyramids of Giza, the Cairo Citadel, Pharaonic temples – or even Cairo Intl. Airport.

The Ministry of Information, which operates all of Egypt’s television stations, charges up to $1,000 a minute to advertise new films, while at the same time paying producers a paltry $2,500 to air their pix on TV, producers complain.

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