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‘Hollywood of the Orient’ Egyptian film industry loses lustre

Egypt cinema feels the brunt of political turmoil, security breakdown

Gulf News

Cairo: Long dubbed the ‘Hollywood of the Orient’, the Egyptian film industry is facing the worst crisis in its history of more than a century due to a sharp decline in output and takings, complicated by the security breakdown, experts say.

“This industry is threatened with extinction because of the current political and econ-omic circumstances in the country,” said Hassan Mahrous, an entertainment critic. “The continuation of street protests and absence of security have scared off most cinema fans,” he told Gulf News.

Egypt has been hit by political unrest and a rise in crime rates since a popular uprising forced former strongman Hosni Mubarak to step down in February 2011. Apparently due to security concerns, theatres nationwide have cancelled the midnight showings, which used to be popular with teenage cinema-goers, mainly during school holidays.

The situation has also prompted several theatres, mainly in restive areas, out of business. Central Cairo, once celebrated as Egypt’s Broadway, has only two theatres still in operation out of a dozen.


Egypt’s first film showing was in 1896, according to historians. As the industry thrived over the years in the country with an estimated 80 productions per year, cinema has grown as one of Egypt’s most influential tools to popularise its culture in the Arab world.

The golden age of Egyptian cinema, the Middle East’s oldest and most prolific, came in the 1950s and ‘60s when famous musicals and classics were produced. The cinema business, which used to be among Egypt’s major earners, suffered huge losses in the two years that followed the revolt, according to Mahrous.