1. Isaad Younes
Producer, distributor, exhibitor, screenwriter, actress
A former actress (last seen in 2006’s “Yacoubian Building”), Younes manages leading Egyptian production company Al-Arabia, overseeing between 15-20 Egyptian films a year. The company (founded by her husband, Jordanian businessman Alaa Al-Khawaga) operates 71 screens in 16 different areas, showing a mix of Egyptian and American movies to which they hold rights.
2. The Trio: Mohamed Hassan Ramzi, Hisham Abdel Khaleq, Wael Abdallah
Producers, distributors, exhibitors
The three producers (who represent the companies Oscar, Al-Nasr and Al-Masa) joined forces in 2001 to counter Al-Arabia’s looming control of the Egyptian distribution and exhibition scene, eventually forming the United Artistic Group. Their joint effort also established the country’s biggest megaplex (City Stars, 24 screens) in Cairo and another in Alexandria (Cine Plex, 10 screens).
3. Antoine Zeind
A pioneer of American film distribution in the Arab world, Zeind serves as Fox and Warner Bros.’ primary agent in Egypt. His company, United Motion Pictures, also releases select independent films, earning more than $7 million annually. In reaction to Al-Arabia’s potential monopoly, Zeind partnered with megaplexes in Cairo and Alexandria, thereby securing screens for the films he handles.
4. Emad Adeeb
Producer, exhibitor, distributor
In contrast with the prevailing trend of low-cost pics, Adeeb broke into the Egyptian market with a slate of big-budget productions ($4 million and up), beginning with “The Yacoubian Building” in 2006. Through his company Good News Group, he has been keen to screen his offerings at the Cannes Film Festival, hoping to introduce Egyptian film to markets outside the Arab region.
5. The Sobki Brothers
Known as “the butchers” because they inherited their fortune from their father’s meat business, the Sobki brothers (Mohamed and Ahmad) made a name for themselves producing comedies for the working classes. The siblings later split, preferring to work independently, launching several production companies under the “Sobki” umbrella, resulting in an oeuvre some critics describe “as the worst in Egyptian cinema history.”
6. Kamel Abu Ali & Naguib Sawiris
Already a prominent Egyptian businessman, Abu Ali decided to invest in cinema, producing a number of movies, with mixed results. Earlier this year, he partnered with billionaire Sawiris to form Misr Cinema with $90 million in financing, marking Naguib’s return to the industry (after selling his late-’90s venture, Renaissance, to Al-Arabia). Abu Ali tapped his preferred helmer, Khaled Youssef, as his main consultant in selecting material.
7. Ahmad Helmi
Egypt’s most established comedian, Helmi is supported by a mass audience that sticks by him even as he jumps between genres, as he did this summer with “Alf Mabrouk” (a film clearly adapted from Columbia’s “Groundhog Day,” though the filmmakers have yet to admit it). His recent pics have consistently earned close to $4 million at home.
8. Tamer Hosny
One of the most successful singers in the Arab world, this controversial performer is a big draw among young auds. Hosny’s films also fare well in the rest of the Arab region, including Lebanon (the most challenging country for Egyptian films). Though sequels are rare in Egyptian cinema, his follow-up to hit “Omar and Salma” has already topped the original.
9. Khaled Yousef
The only current Egyptian director whose name itself is a box office draw, Yousef selects provocative and unusual topics for his films, touching on such issues as slum life, religion, politics, homosexuality and adultery. His most recent film, “Dokkan Shehata” is his most successful yet, earning $3 million so far (it also screened in the Cannes film market).
10. Waheed Hamed
The 65-year-old scribe belongs to the older generation of writers, still producing approximately two scripts each year. His latest movie, “Ehki ya Shehrhazade,” will be screened out of competition at the Venice Film Festival after faring well at home. Hamed’s writing typically reflects his left-wing beliefs, opposing several Egyptian regimes’ policies and the Muslim Brotherhood movement in Egypt.