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Egyptian Cinema: From Beginnings to Golden Age and Beyond

Egyptian cinema, often called Hollywood on the Nile, is a thriving industry deeply rooted in the heart of Cairo. This fascinating domain results from over a century of creative endeavors, producing thousands of films reflecting the country's rich culture and history.

The Inception of Egyptian Cinema

Egypt's cinematic journey can be traced back to 1896, with the production of limited silent films. By 1927, the industry had taken a significant turn with the release of the first-ever full-length feature film, Laila. The advent of sound in films further bolstered Cairo's film industry, turning it into a regional powerhouse.

Egyptian cinema is among the most important in the Middle East, and people often refer to it as "the Hollywood of the Arab world." Egypt is also said to be the only Middle Eastern country with a whole cinema industry in the real sense of the word.
There is some debate regarding when cinema was born in Egypt. While some believe it dates back to 1986 when the first film was watched in the country, others say it started in 1907 when the first documentary short film was made in Egypt. For more than a hundred years of cinema in Egypt, over 4,000 movies represent a significant slice, and the largest by far, of all Arab cinema. Egypt is touted to be the most productive country in the Middle East in film production.
The 1940s and 1950s were the golden era of cinema in Egypt. Many actors found fame after playing popular characters. 1950 to 1962 saw many changes in Egyptian cinema with many ups and downs, and in 1966, the Egyptian film industry was nationalized.
In 1970, Egyptian cinema struck a balance between politics and entertainment. Many films like Khalli Balak min Zouzou starring "The Cinderella of Arab Cinema," Suad Husni, sought to balance politics and audience appeal. Zouzou integrated music, dance, and contemporary fashions into a story that balanced dramatic stories with family melodrama.
Cinema in Egypt today has all the modern amenities like studios and state-of-the-art technology. However, there is also censorship. Any filmmaker has to check the script they're shooting, and the government has to agree with it and check that there is nothing anti-Arab or anti-Muslim in the film. Showing any such thing in a film can lead to controversy and a failed report from the censor board, which can adversely affect your career.
Today, many filmmakers are going out of line to make different films and even challenge the censor board. One such film made recently here is "The Jacobean Building," a landmark in the history of cinema in Egypt. The film was made with the biggest ever budget in Egyptian cinema and had an all-star cast led by the revered actor Adel Imam and famous actress Youssra. The movie even covered sensitive subjects that challenged the censors and religious conservatives, including homosexuality and terrorism.
Filmmakers need help developing new subjects to keep audiences glued to the screen. But what is ultimately required is a new generation of motivated filmmakers ready to break new ground and keep the industry growing. 

Early Film Studios

Between 1930 and 1936, several small-scale studios crafted over 44 feature films. The year 1936 marked the emergence of Studio Misr, funded by industrialist Talaat Harb. It dominated the Egyptian film industry for the next three decades, much like Hollywood's major studios.
Historians differ in pinpointing the birth of cinema in Egypt. Some argue it began in 1896 with the first film screening in Egypt, while others suggest it started on June 20, 1907, with a short documentary about Khedive Abbas Hilmi II's visit to the Institute of Mursi Abul-Abbas in Alexandria.

The Advent of Production Companies

Director Mohammed Karim established a production company in Alexandria in 1917. The company's first productions, Dead Flowers and Honor the Bedouin premiered in Alexandria in 1918. Since then, Egypt has produced over 4,000 films, accounting for three-quarters of the total Arab film production.

The Golden Age of Egyptian Cinema

The period from the 1940s to the 1960s is often called the golden age of Egyptian cinema. During the 1950s, Egypt's film industry was the world's third-largest. Like in the West, films catered to popular tastes, with most falling into predictable genres, and many actors built their careers playing typecast roles.

The Classic & Phenomenal Egypt Cinema Industry


Along with a great history, Egyptian cinema has an excellent and unique style that pleases a person and makes them fall for it more and more. Egyptian films and cinematography set a different standard that is wonderful in its ways. With your tour to Egypt, you will also get to explore the Egyptian cinema industry and learn about it. At Ask-Aladdin, we make sure that a complete view of this phenomenal cinema industry is also given to visitors.

Cairo: The Capital of Egypt's Cinema Industry

Cairo is the central hub of the film and cinema industry in Egypt. Every year, an annual film festival is held in Cairo that was started in 1976. The place will make one see the natural flavors of Egyptian cinema. If one wants to know more about the cinema industry and have a closer look, then Cairo is the perfect place to visit in Egypt.

Key Facts About The Egyptian Cinema Industry:

Apart from its success, the Egyptian cinema industry has had challenges, including the struggle to retain its unique voice. Historically, the industry became very close to Hollywood and began losing some of its individuality and cultural uniqueness. However, the work of great personalities like Muhammad Bayyumi and Talat Harb helped create the original Egyptian studios that pulled Egyptian cinema into its own and gave it a unique, non-Hollywood voice. Many studios popped up after that time, negatively impacted by the Second World War but returning yet again to reach what it is today: a truly unique and excellent cinema industry and culture.

The Rise of Subtitling Companies

In 1940, entrepreneur and translator Anis Ebeid established "Anis Ebeid Films," the first subtitling company in Egypt and the entire Middle East. Bringing hundreds of American and international movies to Egypt, he later ventured into the movie distribution business.

Nationalization of the Egyptian Film Industry

The political changes in Egypt following the overthrow of King Farouk in 1952 initially had little impact on Egyptian cinema. The Nasser regime only sought to control the industry after turning to socialism in 1961. By 1966, the Egyptian film industry was nationalized.

Notable Films of the Golden Age

Despite the challenges of this era, some of the best Egyptian films were produced during this period. Notable titles include The Night of Counting The Years, Aghla Min Hayati, Cairo Station, My Wife, the Director General, and Saladin the Victorious.

The Transitional Period of Egyptian Cinema

The 1980s saw a decline in the Egyptian film industry. However, it was also a time of significant box-office success. During this period, we witnessed the production of notable films like Sunset and Sunrise, Chitchat on the Nile, and The Other Man.

The Modern Era of Egyptian Cinema

The turn of the century brought a resurgence to the Egyptian film industry. With advancements in technology and the growing influence of global cinema, Egyptian filmmakers started exploring new storytelling techniques, genres, and themes. This era is marked by a blend of commercial success and critical acclaim, with films achieving both local popularity and international recognition.
Egyptian cinema continues to thrive and evolve, reflecting the changing times while staying true to its roots. As it moves forward, the industry carries a rich legacy that has left an indelible mark on not just the Arab world but global cinema at large.

Watching Egyptian Cinema Today

Today, Egyptian films are showcased in venues such as the SIFF Cinema Egyptian in Seattle. The cinema is well-equipped with modern facilities like 2k and 4k digital projection Dolby 7.1 Surround Sound and is ADA compliant. It's an all-ages venue with a wine and beer license.

Egyptian Cinema in International Accolade

Over the years, Egyptian cinema has been recognized by prestigious awards like the Golden Globe(S)® and Cecil B. Demille®, which bear testament to the quality of the films produced by the industry.

The Evolution of Egyptian Cinema in Press

Various periodicals, papers, and magazines have documented the evolution of Egyptian cinema since the beginning of the 20th century. Publications like كاميرا = مجلة كاميرا (Camera), Cinema Press in Egypt, and الفن السابع (The Seventh Art) have chronicled the changing landscapes of Egyptian cinema.
In conclusion, Egyptian cinema, with its deep historical roots and dynamic evolution, is a major player in film. It's a testament to Egypt's creativity, resilience, and cultural richness, serving as a window to the country's past, a mirror of its present, and a beacon for its future.

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