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International Newswire: Amazon, Netflix Struggle in Middle East, North Africa, Says Report

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In today’s International Newswire, Amazon and Netflix struggle to make headway in Middle East and North Africa against local rivals, Juan Minujín is cast as the young Pope Francis in Fernando Meirelles’ Netflix original movie ‘The Pope,’ Studiocanal strikes box-office gold with buddy comedy ‘Marry Me, Dude,’ and Eurimages awards $503,000 to Romanian animated feature ‘The Extraordinary Voyage of Marona.’

One picture painted of the digital landscape is of a world dominated by just a few global behemoths. That has yet to happen, however, in some parts of the world. In the Middle East and North Africa, both Netflix and Amazon launched subscription video services in 2016. “Lackluster offerings mean the global giants will together comprise just 21% of the market in 2017,” says a new IHS Markit report, A Slow Start for MENA Subscription Video, by Max Signorelli.

Put another way, the sum of 2017 year-end subscribers for Icflix, Shahid Plus and Starz Play Arabia, three of the big pan-regional players, will be almost four times that of Netflix and Amazon combined, Signorelli added. The reason? As they expand globally, Netflix and Amazon have yet to deal their cards in the region.

“Once Netflix and Amazon start to invest in local content, and make carriage deals with telecoms and with broadcasters for easy access to content and talent, this will allow them to grow substantially in the next four-to-five years,” added IHS Markit’s Constantinos Papavassilopoulos. Currently, it is regional and local players such as Icflix, which is investing in French-language content and consequently draws 10% of its clients from Morocco, which are making the running as localized services. The good news for all players, the report suggests, is that MENA — an immensely diverse region in purchasing power, infrastructure, piracy and tastes, and with a population of 437 million — will grow at a 35% compound annual growth rate over 2016-21, if from a low base of just 1.33 million subscription video clients forecast for year-end 2017.

JUAN MINUJIN TO PLAY YOUNG POPE FRANCIS IN FERNANDO MEIRELLES’ ‘THE POPE’
Juan Minujín, who delivers a tearaway performance as an undercover cop in Netflix-acquired “El Marginal,” will play a young Jorge Mario Bergoglio, later to become Pope Francis, in Fernando Meirelles’ Netflix original movie “The Pope,” starring “Game of Thrones’” Jonathan Pryce as Bergoglio, as Cardinal and then Pope, and Anthony Hopkins as Pope Benedict XVI. Buenos Aires’ K&S (“Wild Tales,” “The Clan”), ripped by Matías Mosteirín, will provide local production services. Produced by Dan Lin, Jonathan Elrich and Tracey Seaward, and shooting from next month in Argentina, “The Pope” looks set to capture the clash of worlds and wills of Bergoglio and the far more fundamentalist Pope Benedict.

STUDIOCANAL’S ‘MARRY ME, DUDE’ SCORES IN FRANCE
Having scored Studiocanal’s biggest-ever box office in France for “Alibi.com,” which sold 3.6 million tickets ($26 million) at the French box office, Studiocanal has scored again with buddy comedy “Marry Me, Dude,” the directorial debut of “Alibi.com” and “Babysitting 2” co-star Tarek Boudali. Released in France by Studiocanal on Wednesday, first-day box office ran to 178,450 admissions, giving Studiocanal two of the three best first-day French-language movie bows this year, a first for the Canal Plus Group-owned European studio, which to date has seen much more major success in the U.K. for its movies than in France. As big French movie hits seem ever more to be made up of comedies, Studiocanal has encountered its own talent hub and style — a mix of excruciating gross-out and flailing masculinity — seen in “Marry Me, Dude,” which turns on a Moroccan male student in Paris who stages a fake wedding with best friend Fred in order to stay in France.

EURIMAGES GIVES $503,000 TO ANCA DAMIAN ANIMATION
Eurimages, the European co-production funding body, has given its highest award of the latest funding round to Romanian animated feature “The Extraordinary Voyage of Marona.” Anca Damian’s Romania-France-Belgium co-pro nabbed €432,000 ($503,000). The film tells the story of Marona, a Labrador. According to a statement, “The victim of an accident, a small female dog remembers the different masters she has unconditionally loved. With her unfailing empathy, Marona has brought lightness and innocence to each of the homes she has lived in.” Damian’s past credits include “Crulic — The Path to Beyond,” which won best feature at the Annecy Intl. Animated Film Festival in 2012, and was in competition at Locarno. The film traveled to more than 140 festivals, and received more than 25 international prizes.

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