Saudi Prince Al-Waleed Bin Talal, a longtime ally of Rupert Murdoch and 21st Century Fox’s no. 2 shareholder, plans to invest around $36 million in Arab films through his Rotana Media Group. The announcement comes following a shake-up in the Arab film and TV biz with the entry of Netflix and Qatar’s pay TV platform beIN Media into the region.
Rotana will concentrate on commercial Egyptian producers for a large part of the planned investment, working closely with the likes of Ahmad Al Sobki, a prolific Egyptian producer as well known for his savvy commercial instincts as he is for his questionable taste. The company will also foster closer ties with local stars, including Egyptian actor Mohammad Ramadan, who was once heralded by no less than Omar Sharif as the most exciting young actor working in the Egyptian film biz. Egypt is by far the dominant producer and consumer of Arabic language cinema in the region. Egyptian films, with the odd exception of the occasional Lebanese entry, are the only Arabic language films that play across the region, while the Egyptian market is focused almost exclusively on Egyptian product, with other Arab films getting barely a look in at the box office.
“”Rotana strongly believes in the importance of the movie industry and the economic and cultural role it plays,” said Rotana chief exec Turki Al-Shabana. Rotana owns and operates a number of film channels in the region, with the injection of new, fresh titles necessary to maintain interest and value. in the company’s library.
Bin Talal owns a 6.6.% stake in 21st Century Fox, having last year reduced his shareholding in News Corp to around 1%. 21st Century Fox holds a 19% shareholding in Rotana. One of the world’s most prominent businessmen, Prince Al-Waleed also owns significant stakes in the likes of Twitter and Euro Disney.
He suffered a rare public dressing down last year with the shuttering of his vaunted Al Arab TV channel after only one day on air. The channel officially blamed “technical reasons” for the outage although many commentators in the region believe it was shuttered following political pressure for the royal families in Bahrain and Saudi Arabia.