In a sign of the growing expat entertainment potential in the region, movies from the Philippines are set to reach a wider audience in the Middle East. Following the launch of new distributor Gulf Asia Entertainment, theatrical releases of ten to twelve Filipino movies are set to released in cinemas across the Gulf region.
Gulf Asia Entertainment is formed as a joint partnership of five regional film industry veterans. The consortium of executives includes former Fox executive vice president for Asia Pacific Sunder Kimatrai, and Front Row Filmed Entertainment’s Gianluca Chakra, Vicente Del Rosario Jr, CEO of the Philippines Viva Entertainment; Shravan Shroff, former managing director of Indian exhibitor Fame India; and Anish Wadhwa, CEO of UAE-based distributor Home Screen Entertainment.
Through Front Row, Gulf Asia Entertainment will distribute Filipino and Southeast Asian content in the Middle East. The new venture's mission will be to capitalise on the growing entertainment needs of the large Filipino and South East Asian diaspora in the region. The Filipino expat community in the Middle East is the second largest in the world, with a population of over 2.5 million, including 1.2 million in Saudi Arabia and 800,000 in the UAE.
“The Filipino community is the third largest community in the UAE, but unlike the audience for Indian films of various languages, Filipinos residing in the GCC are massive spenders and intensely socially active who regularly attend Filipino events and the occasional film that is released. Our aim is to tap into this market and expand by releasing Pinoy films on a day-and-date basis with the Philippines across major cinemas in the GCC as well as on VOD and on digital and soon enough, bring in live events and concerts,” said Del Rosario Jr.
Hit romantic drama 'Never Not Love You' is slated to be the first release on April 19, with Filipino romantic drama Sid & Aya to follow on May 31.
“The UAE market and Saudi Arabi aren’t the only markets we are eyeing. There are another 500,000 across Kuwait, Qatar, Bahrain and Oman. There is a real market waiting to be developed. And with the Middle East and North Africa expansion and the introduction of cinemas in Saudi, we see this becoming a real opportunity,” said Kimatrai.
Saudi Arabia is set to become a major cinema market following the recent decision allowing cinemas to operate again. Vox, AMC and Kuwait National Cinema Company (KNCC), in partnership with Front Row, have already announced plans to open theatres in the territory.
“While we cover Western and Arab film distribution, Asian and specifically Filipino content is indeed a natural progression. With the partners in place, this could only prove to be a significantly interesting move in satisfying a vast audience that has never been properly served in the region,” said Chakra.
Meanwhile streaming giant Netflix has picked up drug war drama “AMO” as its first series from the Philippines, airing globally from April 9. The show was produced by broadcaster TV5 and directed by Brillante Mendoza.