Middle East distributor Front Row Filmed Entertainment is shifting a raft of theatrical releases online due to the COVID-19 pandemic, which has shuttered cinemas across the region.
It’s rare for MENA distributors to forego theatrical releases on decent-sized movies given strict windowing rules. But the current climate will see Front Row kick off ‘Premium VOD’ launches with Jesse Eisenberg’s Marcel Marceau biopic Resistance on April 13. The film was due to launch theatrically on April 9 but but will now debut on iTunes, Google Play, beIN On Demand and OSN Store as well as all local platforms including Du, Etisalat E-Vision, Ooredoo, Vodafone, and OmanTel.
Additional movies now set for similar launches include Drake Doremus’s Endings, Beginnings with Shailene Woodley, Jamie Dornan and Sebastian Stan; Hirokazu Kore-eda’s The Truth with Ethan Hawke, Catherine Deneuve and Juliette Binoche; Philippa Lowthorpe’s Misbehaviour with Keira Knightley, Jessie Buckley and Greg Kinnear; Peter Cattaneo’s Military Wives with Kristen Scott Thomas and Sharon Horgan; and Sundance pic The Assistant, starring Ozark’s Julia Garner.
“Front Row is strongly committed to theatrical exhibition”, said Gianluca Chakra, founder and CEO of Front Row Filmed Entertainment. “However, Covid-19 has quarantined MENA moviegoers and, given these uncertain times, it’s useless to stall on releases and deprive moviegoers from fresh premium content. The world hasn’t stopped. It’s changing, and so are viewing habits which dictate new business models.”
Chakra continued, “During these past weeks, we have seen VOD numbers increase by almost 300%. Premiering what were to be theatrical releases on these same platforms will only increase the demand and eventually solidify the rapport with the consumers. We are ready for this. Our business model has always been prepared for this shift. The phase we are all living in is
only speeding this transition.”
Front Row’s COO Nicolas Torloting added, “These are challenging times, but we are confident that cinemas will bounce back. People will understandably be hesitant to go back to crowded places once this crisis eases. With this in mind, I believe exhibitors and distributors are going to have to start working extremely closely and find creative ways of encouraging people back into cinema halls.”