EXCLUSIVE: Universal Pictures International is forming a new partnership with Emirates-based Majid Al Futtaim Distribution which will see the latter release Universal movies in Saudi Arabia and other GCC countries (Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, UAE) and Egypt. In Lebanon and Cyprus, Uni will retain its longstanding distribution relationship with Four Star Films.
The new deal, which takes effect from February 1, 2023, comes as Saudi and the Middle East region as a whole experience rapid growth with significant box office returns. Majid Al Futtaim Distribution — which also handles Warner Bros titles in the region — is one of the largest groups in the area and is a subsidiary of Majid Al Futtaim Leisure Entertainment & Cinemas, which owns the Middle East’s largest exhibition chain, VOX Cinemas.
The parent company operates more than 600 screens across eight markets in the Middle East and has a portfolio that includes 29 shopping malls and 13 hotels as well as leisure and entertainment experiences, among other holdings.
The pact with Universal will kick off with M Night Shyamalan’s thriller Knock At The Cabin next February. Other pics in the pipeline next year include Illumination’s Super Mario Bros movie, Nicolas Cage-starrer Renfield, blockbuster franchise entry Fast & Furious 10 and DreamWorks Animation’s Trolls 3, among others.
Paul Higginson, Executive Vice President, EMEA for Universal Pictures International, said, “This is a very exciting time for cinema in the Middle East with the investment and audience interest at unprecedented levels. We are thrilled to be partnering with Majid Al Futtaim, one of the most ambitious and forward-thinking groups in the region.”
Ignace Lahoud, CEO of Majid Al Futtaim Leisure, Entertainment & Cinemas, added, “This strategic partnership reaffirms Majid Al Futtaim’s commitment to deliver compelling content and the ultimate cinematic experience to cinemagoers in the region. We are proud to collaborate with Universal Pictures International, which has a long legacy of producing commercially successful and critically acclaimed movies. We look forward to bringing their impressive slate of blockbuster films and popular movie franchises to the big screen and working together to grow the Middle East’s cinema industry with films that attract a large and diverse audience.”
Niels Swinkels, EVP and Managing Director of Universal Pictures International, also noted, “We are delighted to continue our distribution partnership in Lebanon and Cyprus with Four Star Films, who have been our trusted and exemplary partner in the region for over 40 years. We are proud of and extremely thankful for the dedication and friendship of Hikmat and Elias Antypas and their teams and look forward to our ongoing, strong relationship.”