Egypt film market growth continues

CAIRO — Box office for U.S. pics is improving in Egypt, and film distributors are expressing hope for more profit in the future.

“It is a peak time for American films right now in Egypt. We never thought (of grosses) in the millions for American films before, but since 1999, the box office has (grown), despite the restriction that only five prints of American films are allowed to shown at one time,” says Alaa Karkouti, a film distributor for Cairo-based Dollar Films, which will distribute Buena Vista’s “O, Brother Where Art Thou.”

Indeed, in 1999, U.S. pics took in 18.5 million Egyptian pounds ($4 million), $6.5 million in 2000 and $5.5 million in 2001, a lower sum because only Egyptian films unspooled during the summer. Local films are pulling in crowds, too, with hit “Love Journey” setting a record of $700,000 in its first three days; in one month it has raked in $1.5 million.

As with the rest of the world, “Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone” is working its magic at the box office, with 60,000 admissions, grossing $200,000; other top American pics are “Vanilla Sky” ($175,00 in two weeks), “Rush Hour 2″ ($150,00 in its fourth week) and “The One” ($120,00 in three weeks). But beating those heavy-hitters is “The Others,” which has grossed $225,000 since its Jan. 16 opening.

“I was very happy with the results of ‘Harry Potter,’ since there were few copies of the book in English, and a print of 100,000 was only published in Arabic last month on the occasion of the film, ” says Antoine Zeind, managing director of United Motion Pictures, local distributor for Fox and Warner Bros.

This year will see at least six new multiplexes in Cairo and Alexandria.

“The key is good cinemas, and we have built some of the best-equipped multiplexes catering the films to specialized audiences,” says Mahmoud Mustafa, theatrical manager for exhib Amaru Osman, which distributes for Paramount and UIP.

“We are looking forward to release ‘A Beautiful Mind’ on Feb. 27, since the Academy Awards publicity is important,” he adds.

Foreign films B.O. for the month of January have increased to $990,289 compared with $700,000 in January 2001.

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