Saudi Prince Al-Waleed Bin Talal, who owns a 6.6% stake in 21st Century Fox, is increasing his investments in Arab movies through his Rotana Media Group with plans to produce a slate of new Arabic blockbusters over the next two years and ambitions to give the local industry a post-Arab Spring boost.
Rotana, in which Al-Waleed is a majority shareholder, has announced it will be working with Egyptian producers including Ahmad Al Sabki and Walid Sabri on a slate of mainstream movies mainly for Arab auds to be churned out over the next two years in an effort to breathe new life into the Arab film industry, which remains largely Egypt-centric despite damage inflicted to producers by Egypt’s political turbulence.
“The production of new movies will lead to the reactivation of this important and strategic industry in the Arab world after it suffered deeply during the Arab Spring,” vowed Rotana’s CEO Turki Al Shabana in a statement.
Top Arab talent involved in the unspecified projects includes prominent Egyptian director Yousry Nasrallah, whose post-Arab Spring drama “After the Battle” competed at the Cannes Film Festival in 2012. Nasrallah’s upcoming new film is “Brooks, Meadows and Beautiful Faces,” about a family of cooks who cater for a wedding in the countryside.
Rotana Media Group said it has earmarked $36 million for the new slate, a considerable sum given that most Arab movies cost less than $1 million, bringing its total investment in Arabic film production to $281 million.
Fox holds a 19% share in Rotana, a diversified Riyadh-based Middle East media company that is the world’s largest producer of Arabic music and a prominent film distributor and producer.
Al-Waleed’s past entertainment investments include financing Michael Jackson’s world “History Tour.” He is also known to have a longstanding rapport with Rupert Murdoch. Besides being Fox’s number two shareholder, Al-Waleed also holds substantial stakes in Twitter and Euro Disney.