VOX, Tanweer Bow Distrib-Exhib (EXCLUSIVE)

Make way for a new Middle East and North Africa film distribution-exhibition powerhouse with close Hollywood ties and plex muscle to flex.

Majid Al Futtaim’s rapidly expanding VOX Cinemas chain has joined forces with Joseph Samaan’s Tanweer Group, the MENA and Southeast Asia distributor that acts as an agent for TV sales to Disney, Lakeshore, Miramax and other Hollywood companies, to form Tanweer MAF Pictures, known as TM Pictures.

The Dubai-based joint venture will be managed by an independent team of executives. Both companies will invest in acquisitions.

The deep-pocketed VOX operates 83 state-of-the-art screens in eight locations in the UAE and Lebanon, accounting for 37% of the Middle East market. It plans to open 25 screens in 2013 in the UAE and Oman and by 2017 to be operating 300 screens in seven countries across MENA, including Egypt, Bahrain and Qatar.

VOX is wholly owned by Majid Al Futtaim Ventures, a division of the Majid Al Futtaim Group, leader in the Middle East’s shopping mall and leisure sector. In 2012, the company had revenues of $5.9 billion.

The underscreened UAE has one of the highest worldwide pro capita moviegoing attendance rates in the world. But competition in this rapidly growing space is fierce.

TM Pictures will be up against Middle East market leader Gulf Film, which has 40 screens and Hollywood ties — it sub-distributes Paramount and Universal titles in the UAE and is the Middle East distributor for IM Global, Relativity Media and Voltage.

Gulf Film, which is also expanding, accounts for over 65% of all movie distribution and 60% of exhibition market share in the UAE.

Another competitor is Italia Films, which has exclusive relationships with Disney and DreamWorks, owns 23 screens and controls booking over many others.

With more Mideast muscle, Tanweer and VOX seek access to bigger titles from Hollywood and elsewhere.

The TM team will use data from VOX’s digital loop to monitor how pics are performing at any moment in any theater to take the region’s box office pulse. The goal is to set standards for the promotion and marketing of movie releases across the region by combining content, infrastructure and know-how of two strong players.

Tanweer, an experienced distributor, will have a say in which films to put in each territory, highlighting the importance of marketing toward specific countries to meet diverse aud needs.

TM also aims to secure deals with local bookers beyond its own loop.

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