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Middle East Distributor Front Row Hires Former Disney Exec, Expands Into Production

Dubai-based Middle East distributor Front Row Filmed Entertainment is expanding into production to capitalize on the potential of the nascent Saudi market and has hired former Disney exec Nicolas Torloting to handle its day-to-day operations as COO.

Torloting, who is French, was previously with The Walt Disney Company for 15 years, occupying roles in finance, business development and strategy before being becoming the Mouse House’s senior manager overseeing its licensed partners in the Middle East and North Africa, as well as Greece, Israel and Turkey.

Front Row is a pioneer in distribution in the Middle East, having long ago gone beyond theatrical distribution to forge relationships with Apple, Google and local pay-TV players and streamers such as Iflix, with which it ventured into production on 2017 Egyptian comedy series “Tough Luck.” On the film front, the company recently announced an Arabic remake of hit Italian dramedy “Perfect Strangers” and have other Arabic projects in the pipeline.

Torloting’s hire, which follows the recent appointments of former Sony and Fox exec Eli Touma as Front Row’s acquisitions chief and Micallar Walker-Smith, previously head of events at Picturehouse in the U.K., as head of marketing, will allow the company’s top brass to focus mainly on production of mostly Arabic content.

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Front Row President Hisham AlGhanim and CEO Gianluca Chakra will continue to oversee all local and international acquisitions. 

“I’ve known Gianluca and Hisham for over 15 years and saw their growth throughout, building an impressive setup making Front Row the most innovative and successful film distribution company in the Middle East,” Torloting said in a statement.

“With the opening of the Saudi market into the theatrical world and the quick and continuous market shifts, I believe that the MENA theatrical, TV and VOD markets will expand strongly in the upcoming years. Front Row, with its innovative culture will play a key role in taking the lead in this evolution,” Torloting added.

Chakra said that Torloting’s “experience and wealth of knowledge especially in markets like Saudi will be key in expanding into that territory.”

Chakra said Front Row had already started acquiring other IPs besides “Perfect Strangers” for Arabic-language remakes of TV and film. Besides Arabic-language fare, it also has “a couple of high-concept international features” that will be announced later this year.

Our roadmap is clear,” said AlGhanim. “Nicolas will focus on enhancing Front Row’s organization in order to keep leading the market changes whilst Gianluca and myself will expand the local production projects and develop an ambitious acquisition plan of international and Arabic-language content.”

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