At Med Film Factory’s film assembly on the Dead Sea this weekend, audiovisual professionals, distributors, exhibitors, and producers discussed film distribution in the Mediterranean, especially focusing on Jordan where the problem is particularly striking.
“There are several problems in Jordan as far as distribution is concerned,” explained media consultant Yusuf Mansur. “One is the absence of cinemas. The few screens in Jordan are located in Amman and there are no cinemas in other Jordanian towns where 70% of the population lives. The government should act to help the private sector to build and run independent cinemas.”
“The other problem is the price of a ticket. In Jordan, the price is €7, the same price as in Europe, but the average income per person is 12 times less than in Europe.”
“The third problem is piracy. Pirates have a very well organized and established distribution system. We should find a way to legalise this network and raise revenues for the producers and authors.”
“For me, pirate shops should be closed,” added Jordanian exhibitor Bassam Hijjawi. “We invested millions of dollars in setting up the first CD shop in a big mall in Amman in 2005. We had to close four years later because of piracy. If there was a way to legalise the work of piracy groups, that would solve much of the problem. As exhibitors, we need to show movies that people want to see.”
“Governments should help exhibitors and distributors, either with financial support or by imposing a quota for local films,” he concluded.
Pim Hermeling, CEO of Wild Bunch replied:
“As a sales agent, I am not going to put money in a movie that will not make a return on investment. But this does not mean that my company invests only in commercial films. There are many cases of arthouse films that have found an audience, won dozens of prizes at festivals, and have a very good exhibition career.”
“As a scriptwriter and author, I will not write a script to please an audience, I just write what I believe is good,” added Lebanese producer Katia Jorjoura.
In the sixties there was an audience for Jordanian films, audiovisual consultant Hala Zureiqat reminded participants.
“The problem nowadays is a lack of culture about cinema,” she said. “The authorities need to invest in education and create an audience from childhood.”
Participants also discussed others means of distribution, new forms that hopefully could be developed in the area. A good example was presented by Jordanian participant Tareq Abu-Lughod, who has created a video-on-demand platform to distribute original Arab film content.
“The business model is based on Hulu, the content is shown for free with publicity,” he explained. “We hope to develop a subscription model, but at least in Jordan people are not willing to pay to watch films online. But this is the way of the future.”
Sami Nazer created a library with a collection of classic films.