Movies from the Philippines are set to reach a wider audience in the Middle East following the launch of new distributor Gulf Asia Entertainment. The company aims to give theatrical releases to up to a dozen Filipino titles per year through an arrangement with Front Row Filmed Entertainment.
First out is “Never Not Love You, which will be released on 19 April. Starring Nadine Lustre and James Reid, the romantic drama released last week in The Philippines and enjoyed a $500,000 opening weekend. In May, Gulf Asia will release another romance “Sid & Aya,” starring Anne Curtis and Ding Dong Dantes.
Gulf Asia is a joint effort of a quintet of film industry veterans. They include former EVP of 20th Century Fox in the Asia-Pacific Sunder Kimatrai, and Anish Wadhwa, CEO of Home Screen Entertainment, a U.A.E.-based company releasing Indian films in the Middle East. Also involved are Sharavan Shroff, former head of Indian multiplex group Fame, Gianluca Chakra, CEO of Front Row, and CEO of The Philippines Viva Entertainment, Vincente Del Rosario Jr.
The launch of the company is intended to make use to two phenomena: the recent legalization and opening up of the theatrical cinema industry in Saudi Arabia; and the large Filipino population of migrant workers in the Middle East. These are estimated to number 1.2 million in Saudi Arabia, and 800,000 in the U.A.E. Similar initiatives are operating in Internationally catering to the Indian diaspora, and in North America for the overseas Chinese population.
“The Filipino community is the 3rd largest community in the UAE, but unlike the audience for Indian films, Filipinos residing in the (Gulf) are massive spenders and intensely socially active who regularly attend Filipino events and the occasional film that is released. Our aim is to tap into this market and expand by releasing Pinoy films on a day-and-date basis with the Philippines across major cinemas in the Gulf Cooperation Council as well as on VOD and on digital and soon enough, bring in live events and concerts” said Del Rosario Jr. in a statement.
“The UAE market and Saudi Arabi aren’t the only markets we are eyeing. There are another 500,000 across Kuwait, Qatar, Bahrain and Oman. There is a real market waiting to be developed. And with the Middle East and North Africa expansion and the introduction of cinemas in Saudi, we see this becoming a real opportunity,” said Kimatrai.