Egypt bans foreign films in cinemas during Eid

The measure gives advantage to local films, facing increasing competition from foreign productions

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Egypt’s film industry regulator has banned the screening of foreign films in theatres during the upcoming Eid al-Fitr holiday, according to a statement released on Sunday.

The Egyptian Cinema Industry Chamber informed distributers and cinema theaters of its decision to ban foreign films during the Islamic Eid al-Fitr holiday, which marks the end of Ramadan, granting an advantage to local productions suffering stiff competition from foreign films.

Joseph Fahim, chief programmer at the Cairo International Film Festival, attributed the Chamber’s decision to the drastic increase in expenditure on film production.

“[Egyptian film producers] have taken a big gamble on this year’s films” Fahim told Al Arabiya News. “They want to get Egyptians to see Egyptian movies again,” he said.

Huge productions are scheduled for release next week in time for the Eid break. According to Fahim, some of these films have unprecedented budgets, reaching $3.5 million.

Fahim, also a film critic, adds that foreign films began dominating the market share at the beginning of the last decade.

He explains that Egyptians approach local films with more caution than they do with American films simply due to latter’s perceived higher quality.

While Egypt’s film industry continues to be the largest in the Middle East, production decreased after the 2011 uprising.

This phenomenon of altering the now-showing list in theatres is not exclusive to Eid. A non-Egyptian film cannot be screened in more than 10 theaters across the country, according to Fahim. This limit is imposed all-year-round, he explained.

“Made in Egypt,” a film scheduled for release this week, is marketed as an “Eid Film” at the end of its trailer.

The film stars popular actor Ahmed Helmy and is reported to have cost $2.3 million.

“The Blue Elephant” a crime-thriller based on the best-selling novel starring Karim Abdel Aziz, cost $3.5 million to make, the biggest production budget in Egypt’s film history.

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