elCinema.com: MENA’s Arabic IMDB

elCinema.com: MENA’s Arabic IMDB

CinemaPeople like drama queens. They might not admit it, but every now and then a drama queen emerges either from the Middle East or abroad and we simply can’t get enough.

Be it a pastor from Florida or an Imam in NYC, we love getting all worked up about things we should otherwise dismiss and instead ignore the more threatening issues we face, such as the serious electricity blackout dilemma that’s increasing in most Arab countries.

Some of us simply accept this fact, while others try to change it. Today I bring to you a person who saw an opportunity to make some money providing the region’s most comprehensive collection of everything related to Arabic drama.

Khaled Bassyouny is an Egyptian who is passionate about Arabic movies, soup-opera, and drama series and thought he’d share his passion with the rest of Arab world 20 months ago only to find he shares that passion with a lot people more than he had expected.

Starting a company called Damlag to run elCinema.com, it was listed on a government-run technology incubator program and has closed successful deals with local and foreign businesses. In one such deal, it allowed a mobile phone services company to use its electronic content for two years while keeping the intellectual property rights to that content reported Al Ahram last month.

Getting around 700,000 unique visitors a month elCinema appears to be a rising regional star in the Arabic online movie industry that with the latest shift in distribution techniques many independent movie producers are adopting.

We asked Bassyouny where he see’s elCinema heading during the Celebration of Entrepreneurship in Dubai last week, he responded: “What we’re building now is a video platform, containing video streaming and upload. That will target independent movie making but without distribution.”

But with the massive investment in Arabic online video streaming portals like MBC owned Shahid.net and Forga.com backed by major shareholders in The Arab Company for Arts & Publishing (FUNUN), it looks like elCinema has some serious competition.

“We’re going to use our position in the market as the Middle Easts biggest Arabic movie database. We are MENA’s IMDB. We already get 1-1.2 million visits, and have around 700,000 AUV and we’ve only been online for 1 year and 8 months.” said Bassyouny.

He attributes a large portion of his traffic to Google which usually serves his website on the first page of any search related to Arabic drama both on TV or the big screen.

One aspect of elCinema that requires it’s founder’s direct attention is the User Interface which is a bit of challenge to provide information through.

“We currently have only one user interface which is Arabic but come next February we’re going to be launching English and French. We want to become the number one content repository on everything related to the Arabic movie industry in any language that content can be in.”

“Our movie reviews are all user generated, but since the current User Interface isn’t the easiest to use, we’re launching a revamped version that should be public by January which will include Social Networking functionality including the ability to invite friends to go to the movies, liking movies, in addition to our recent mobile interface.”

And since the Arabic movie industry is a multi-million dollar one, it wouldn’t be reasonable to assume elCinema wasn’t pulling in money till now, Bassyouny said: “Our main source of revenue is advertisement. When a new movie is out, distributors come to us to promote it to our users. We also do content syndication, such as selling content to other portals such as du telecoms owned anayou.com” which they signed a 2 year syndication agreement with.

Now till now they have simply done one thing, and done it well. But the elCinema team have noticed the enormous gap in the online Movie Guide industry which they’ve decided to change with their recent launch of elCinema TV Guide covering almost 70 of the region’s most watched satellite channels. Look out ShooFeeTV, these guys look like they’re on to something.

So if you’re interested in the Arabic movie industry you might want to check elCinema out, don’t speak English? Just keep checking this space and we’ll let you know when elCinema launch English & French.

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