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Rotana, Gulf Film ink landmark deal

Pact to cover Levant, Gulf areas of Arab world

Saudi billionaire-media maven Prince Waleed’s Rotana Studios and Gulf Film have inked a landmark output deal that could revolutionize the way Arabs films are marketed and distributed in the Middle East.

The three-year deal, for 25-30 features a year, will cover the area from the Persian Gulf west to the Mediterranean.

While Arab filmmakers have long complained about the often haphazard way their films have been released across their own territory, the Rotana-Gulf Film pact will see a coordinated day-and-day approach for the first time.

In the past, pics from Egypt, which remain the biggest draw across the Arab world, were released in that country first and then rolled out across the rest of the region. Individual territories would have to wait for their respective prints to arrive once another territory had finished screening a film. This process would increase piracy and dilute the impact of a pic’s marketing campaign.

Rotana Studios prexy Frederic Sichler and Gulf Film co-topper Salim Ramia formally inked the deal in Berlin late Saturday.

“We’re basically trying to structure the film industry in the Arab world,” said Sichler, who prior to joining Rotana was managing director at StudioCanal. “It will allow us to think of how we can market a film in advance of its release.”

The deal does not directly cover Egypt, which is naturally the biggest single market for Egyptian pics, but Rotana and Gulf Film will work closely with distribs in the country to ensure an optimum release.

Gulf Film, which is run by Salim Ramia and Ahmed Golchin, is celebrating its 20th anniversary this year. Exhib-distrib is one of the largest and most powerful in the Arab world.