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French Hit ‘Intouchables’ to Get Arabic Remake

The French hit comedy “Intouchables” is set for an Arabic remake from production outfit Yalla Yalla, the joint venture formed recently by Dubai-based distributor Front Row Filmed Entertainment and London’s Rocket Science.

The Arabic remake of the 2011 French original produced by Gaumont, which grossed over $426 million globally, is being set up as a Saudi-Egyptian co-production by Yalla Yalla with still-undisclosed partners. The director and cast will be announced soon, a statement said.

This will be Yalla Yalla’s second announced production, following the remake of Italian hit “Perfect Strangers.” That project was announced by Front Row a year ago but remains in pre-production.

Headquartered in Dubai, with satellite offices in London and New York, Yalla Yalla was launched in May by Front Row and Rocket Science to package and produce TV and feature film projects for the Middle East. The market is expanding largely thanks to Saudi Arabia’s ambitions to become an entertainment industry player since the conservative kingdom lifted a ban on cinema in late 2017.

The “Intouchables” deal was negotiated by Ian Cooper of Cooper Lay for Yalla Yalla and Cecile Gaget for Gaumont.

The French original, about a grumpy white paraplegic billionaire who strikes a friendship with his street-smart black ex-con caretaker, has been remade in several countries, including a 2017 U.S. adaptation titled “The Upside,” starring Bryan Cranston and Kevin Hart. One of the last titles produced by The Weinstein Company before it imploded, “The Upside” scored more than $120 million domestically on a reported $37.5 million budget. A 2016 Argentinian remake titled “Inseparables” was also a moneymaker in Latin America.

Hisham Alghanim and Gianluca Chakra, the respective president and managing partner of Front Row, said in a statement that the Arabic remake “would mark the first co-production for a feature film between Egypt and Saudi [Arabia],” and that the film’s universal narrative “could bridge two entirely different [Arab] cultures.”

Front Row, a pioneer in Middle East distribution, has expanded beyond theatrical to forge relationships with Apple, Google and local pay-TV players. The company is now on a mission to branch out into the production of mostly Arabic film and TV content to feed prospective demand from Saudi audiences.

Thorsten Schumacher, CEO of Rocket Science, said he was excited “to be able to bring such a globally recognizable property to the [Middle East] territory – the first of many.”

Rocket Science was launched by Scumacher, a former chief of HanWay Films, in 2016. Their current slate includes Ana Lily Amirpour’s female-led “Cilffhanger” reboot, Sean Penn’s “Flag Day,” and Billy Crystal’s “Here Today.”

Gaget of Gaumont said she was “glad that such an iconic film will get an Arabic-language remake, especially with partners we have known for a very long time and who we feel comfortable with in adapting this gem with the care it deserves.”

Front Row will handle distribution in the Middle East and North Africa. Rocket Science will handle  international sales in all other territories.

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