Disney to make Arab movies

Walt Disney Pictures, which already produces movies in France, China and India (at least) in addition to their regular roster of American pics, is now eyeing the Arabian peninsula and is in talks to finance The Last Of The Storytellers from Lebanese director Chadi Zeneddine (Falling From Earth), which would mark their first film in Arabic and will likely start filming by the end of next year.

Disney has big plans for the Middle East. The Arab world has a population of some 300 million people, and with two-thirds under age 30, the market is a natural for family-friendly Disney fare. Disney expects to announce two more Arabic-language features in time for the fifth edition of the Dubai Film Festival, which unspools in December.

“There’s a lot of opportunity for us in the Middle East,” said a Disney exec, who insisted on anonymity. “There’s a lot of room for growth for us. It’s the international territory that we’re most excited about expanding into.”

Disney’s arabian move is expected to be followed by other American studios, such as 20th Century-Fox. I can already repeat what I said following Disney’s recent announcement of big Indian plans: I’m really glad American studios are finally seeing the importance of international markets, but I wish they’d use their power to distribute the films they produce in other countries worldwide.

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