The film industry in Lebanon, despite having prominent directors and producers such as Nadine Labaki and Ziad Doueiry, and award-winning movies such as Capernaum and The Insult, has never been given the importance and the tools necessary to grow.
But now, in the light of the economic crisis, this industry’s overlooked potential is starting to garner attention from investors. Because of the severe and rapid depreciation of the Lebanese currency, depositors are looking to salvage their life savings : the latest cry from economists such as Dan Azzi, former CEO of Standard Chartered Bank and whose articles are published in Annahar and l’Orient-le-Jour, is to invest in Lebanon’s movie industry.
Why is the movie industry in Lebanon promising? And why is it especially lucrative today?
The Investment Development Authority of Lebanon (IDAL) recently pinned the potential of the film industry based on numbers reported by Fondation Liban Cinema:
Between 2013 and 2017, the average number of movies produced annually in Lebanon has gone from 11 to 48, and the budget invested has nearly doubled: from USD 8.8 million to USD 16.3 million. The predicted rate of returns of investments in this industry is 29%.
Film production houses in Lebanon reach a number of 97 in Lebanon, employing diversified crews fluent in English, Arabic and French.
Lebanon’s natural scenery allows low-cost filming locations, even more so when obtaining a filming permit from the Ministry of Information is easier than in most countries.
Why invest in it now?
Depositors are looking for an outlet to save their “Lollars” from the haircut and for ways to procure themselves “Fresh dollars”, as they have been dubbed.
In light of the success of the Lebanese movie industry in this past decade, economists have encouraged depositors to invest their Lollars into local film projects, thus solving 3 problems:
Investing in movies with lollars means revenues in Fresh dollars:
Lebanese movies have the potential to fare very well in foreign countries, which means that the profits are in “fresh dollars”.
Capernaum by Nadine Labaki has made USD 68 million worldwide at the box office, (with USD 66 million profits from foreign countries) for a production cost of USD 4 million. Where Do We Go Now, also by the same producer, has made USD 21 million worldwide. The Insult by Ziad Doueiry has made $850,711 in Italy and $57,790 in the Netherlands.
Local producers already struggle with financing their film projects and could use a boost from Lebanese investors:
In an interview with MTV, Jimmy Keyrouz, director of the movie Broken Keys, which figured in the Cannes Film Festival 2020 Official Selection and is Lebanon’s official candidate for the 2021 Oscars, has admitted that the crew struggled with finding enough budget.
The film industry employs more than 1000 people, and a growth of this industry can mean more job opportunities for the upcoming film graduates in Lebanon.