Local titles warm Egypt

Domestic films dominate summer box office

CAIRO — At the time when most of the world is obsessed with summer tentpoles, Egypt goes against the grain and rolls out its most commercial local fare.

There are at least 21 new Egyptian pics set for release this summer, against just six or seven foreign films.

Local titles slated for summer include “Morgan Ahmed Morgan,” starring top actor Abdel Imam, from Good News Group.

Comedies and musical romances dominate, with titles including “Street 18”; “The Honest Thief”; “An Officer and Four Cats,” with pop star Hany Ramzy; romantic comedy “Khaliji neema” and love story “The Devils,” directed by Ahmed Abou-Zeid.

Following the success of last year’s sleeper hit “Free Time,” some producers are trying better scripts with lower budgets, especially for teen audiences.

But distribs of top Hollywood tentpoles say there’s room for a few foreign break-outs.

“We have a different target audience in summer, and think our strong lineup of ‘Ocean’s Thirteen,’ ‘Fantastic Four 2,’ ‘Die Hard 4’ and ‘Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix’ to be released in June and July will do well,” says Fox/Warner chief Antoine Zeind.

“We have been working on a pre-awareness campaign in print and media these past two months — especially for ‘The Simpsons Movie,’ since the TV show is not shown in Egypt.”

Box office for Hollywood fare increased about 15% in 2006, according to distribs, who are expecting even bigger increases this year due to multiplex growth, with Cairo Stars Cinema planning a 21-theater complex.

Elias Antypass of Four Stars, the Mideast distrib for “Evan Almighty,” says the pic probably won’t see release in Egypt due to local touchiness over religious subject matter.

“We expect blockbusters like ‘Transformers’ and ‘The Bourne Ultimatum’ for July to achieve good results, although competition is high against the large amount of Egyptian summer films,” Antypass says.

“Spider-Man 3” did predictably well in opening weeks, but box office dropped off due to school final-exam period. Coin for “Pirates of the Caribbean: At World’s End” is unlikely to be affected.

Zeind, who owns multiplexes in Cairo and Alexandria, says it is all in the timing for Hollywood pics screening in Egypt during summer.

He says his Alexandria plex will be showing only Arabic films during the season due to predominantly Egyptian and Arab vacationers in summertime.

Sherif Awad contributed to this report.