Dubai’s Front Row seals Middle East iTunes deal

Sourcing independent, Arabic-language films inside and outside the Arab world can be a challenge but this looks set to change following a ground-breaking initiative between Dubai-based distributor Front Row Filmed Entertainment and iTunes.

Pan-Arab film distributor Front Row announced on Thursday  (Sept 4) that it had sealed a deal with iTunes to act as an aggregator for independent Arabic and Bollywood distribution companies wishing to distribute their slates via VOD in the Middle East and worldwide.

The initiative builds on Front Row’s recent experiences releasing films such as A Long Way Down, Rush, Diana and the Lebanese hit Where Do We Go Now via VOD in the UAE, Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Lebanon, Jordan, Bahrain, Qatar and Oman.

The company has also experimented with premium VOD windows, conducting day-and-date releases of titles such as The Resident, Let Me In and The Ides of March in eight territories, including Saudi Arabia, which by law has no cinema theatres.

Front Row said in Thursday’s statement that it intended to “aggressively pursue” the strategy in the coming months.

The deal could also signal better visibility for Arab Cinema outside of the region.

“This is an exciting opportunity for Arab Cinema and emerging local talent, not only across the region, but also worldwide,” said Hisham Al Ghanim, general manager of the Kuwait National Cinema Company (KNCC) and partner in Front Row Filmed Entertainment.

Front Row managing partner Gianluca Chakra added: “With Free Television not acquiring independent titles, the DVD market dying and pay-TV being extremely selective, I’m sure that local film distributors will finally find common grounds and encourage the VOD medium even more. We’re sure iTunes will become the place to turn to when looking for a movie.”

Front Row’s upcoming releases include Maps To The Stars, A Walk Among The Tombstones, The Guest, The Riot Club, Wish I Was Here and Northmen: A Viking Saga, which will be available on iTunes shortly after their theatrical release in the Middle East.