Universal Pictures International partners with Majid Al Futtaim Distribution in new deal for Arab world

Universal Pictures International partners with Majid Al Futtaim Distribution in new deal for Arab world
Universal Pictures International and Majid Al Futtaim Distribution announced a partnership that will see the Emirati-based distribution company release Universal films in Saudi Arabia and other Middle Eastern countries. (Shutterstock)
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Updated 10 August 2022

Universal Pictures International partners with Majid Al Futtaim Distribution in new deal for Arab world

Universal Pictures International partners with Majid Al Futtaim Distribution in new deal for Arab world
  • Partnership comes amid rapid cinema growth and strong box office results in Saudi Arabia and Middle East
  • Under the deal, Majid Al Futtaim Distribution will release Universal Pictures’ titles, including the M. Night Shyamalan thriller “Knock at the Cabin”

LONDON: Universal Pictures International and Majid Al Futtaim Distribution on Wednesday announced a partnership that will see the Emirati-based distribution company release Universal films in Saudi Arabia and other Middle Eastern countries, including Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, the UAE and Egypt.
“This is a very exciting time for cinema in the Middle East with the investment and audience interest at unprecedented levels. We are thrilled to be partnering with Majid Al Futtaim, one of the most ambitious and forward-thinking groups in the region,” said Paul Higginson, executive vice president, EMEA for Universal Pictures International.
News of the partnership, which will take effect on Feb. 1, 2023, comes as Saudi Arabia and the wider Middle East experience rapid growth and strong box office results.
Under the deal, Majid Al Futtaim Distribution, one of the largest film distributors in the region and a subsidiary of Majid Al Futtaim Leisure, Entertainment & Cinemas, will release Universal Pictures’ titles, including the M. Night Shyamalan thriller “Knock at the Cabin,” the Super Mario Bros movie and “Renfield” starring Nicolas Cage.
“This strategic partnership reaffirms Majid Al Futtaim’s commitment to deliver compelling content and the ultimate cinematic experience to cinemagoers in the region,” said Ignace Lahoud, CEO of Majid Al Futtaim Leisure, Entertainment & Cinemas.
“We are proud to collaborate with Universal Pictures International, which has a long legacy of producing commercially successful and critically acclaimed movies. We look forward to bringing their impressive slate of blockbuster films and popular movie franchises to the big screen and working together to grow the Middle East’s cinema industry with films that attract a large and diverse audience,” he added.
Niels Swinkels, EVP and managing director of Universal Pictures International, said that the company will continue its distribution relationship with Four Star Films in Lebanon and Cyprus.
He said that Four Star Films “has been our trusted and exemplary partner in the region for over 40 years.”


Twitter adds Arabic to ‘reply prompts’ feature, launches in Saudi Arabia

Twitter adds Arabic to ‘reply prompts’ feature, launches in Saudi Arabia
Updated 33 sec ago

Twitter adds Arabic to ‘reply prompts’ feature, launches in Saudi Arabia

Twitter adds Arabic to ‘reply prompts’ feature, launches in Saudi Arabia
  • The feature, which Twitter said has already proved successful in other languages, encourages people to think twice before replying to a tweet
  • The platform said English-language users in the US changed or deleted replies 30 percent of the time when prompted

DUBAI: Twitter has added an Arabic version of its “reply prompts” feature for users in Saudi Arabia, following a test phase among select Arabic-speaking users in the Kingdom.

The feature, which is designed to encourage people in certain circumstances to think twice before replying to a tweet, was initially tested in English in 2020. Twitter began to roll it out in some territories in 2021 and it was launched globally in 2022 in English and Turkish, in Spanish in Mexico, and in Portuguese in Brazil.

“People come to Twitter to talk about what’s happening and sometimes conversations about things we care about can get intense and people say things in the moment they might regret later,” Twitter’s director of product design Anita Butler and product manager Alberto Parrella wrote in a blog post.

According to Twitter, the feature has proved successful so far, with tests showing that English-language users in the US changed or deleted their replies 30 percent of the time when prompted, while Portuguese-language users in Brazil did so 47 percent of the time.

The social media platform said it found that after being prompted to reconsider a reply, users canceled it 9 percent of the time and revised it 22 percent of the time. Overall, people who were prompted in this way posted 6 percent fewer offensive tweets.

In early tests, users sometimes received unnecessary prompts because the computer algorithms could not properly differentiate between potentially offensive language, sarcasm and friendly banter. Throughout the process, Twitter said it analyzed results, collected feedback from users and worked to address any errors, including detection inconsistencies. Based on feedback and what was learned from those tests, the platform said it made improvements to the systems that determine when and how the prompts are sent.

For example, the algorithms now takes into consideration the nature of the relationship between two accounts, because if they follow and reply to each other regularly there is a higher likelihood that they have a good understanding of the preferred tone of communication.

Additionally, Twitter said it is adjusting its technology to account for situations in which insulting words or phrases might have been reclaimed by underrepresented communities and used in non-harmful ways, and to detect strong language more accurately. It is also working on ways in which users can provide feedback on whether or not they found a prompt helpful or relevant. 

The feature is now active on iOS, Android and the web on accounts in Saudi Arabia that have enabled Arabic-language settings.


Official FIFA 23 game soundtrack launched on Spotify

Official FIFA 23 game soundtrack launched on Spotify
Updated 04 October 2022

Official FIFA 23 game soundtrack launched on Spotify

Official FIFA 23 game soundtrack launched on Spotify
  • Saudi Arabia is the most FIFA-obsessed country in the Arab world on the platform, as it has the most playlists per user featuring songs from the soundtrack

DUBAI: FIFA 23, the latest iteration of the football video game franchise from EA Sports, has been generating much hype among gamers around the world since its release last week, and not only about the gameplay.

Many fans are as eager to discover the music used in each new version of the game as they are to actually play it and this year is no exception. And building on the FIFA fever in this World Cup year, the official soundtrack of the game has now been launched on Spotify.

It features songs from a mix of new and established acts around the world, including Saudi-born British artist Alewya. Meanwhile, MILKBLOOD and Pheelz make their FIFA soundtrack debuts.

“When cultural moments happen that ignite the gaming world like FIFA, we see that reflected in the music that we listen to on Spotify,” the streaming company said.

The platform analyzed the streaming habits of its users and found that Saudi Arabia ranks as the most FIFA-obsessed country in the Arab World, as it has the highest number of playlists per user that feature songs from the game’s soundtrack. Egypt and UAE are close runners-up, followed by Morocco and Qatar.

Globally, Spotify said that more than 21.2 million playlists include at least one song from the official FIFA 23 soundtrack.

The platform also revealed that the most-streamed song globally from the soundtrack to date is “Ojitos Lindos” by Bad Bunny and Bomba Estereo, followed by “Obsessed With You” by Central Cee, “Saoko” by Rosalia, “Ahora y Siempre” by Quevedo, Linton, and “Nail Tech” by Jack Harlow.


TikTok launches mental health initiative

TikTok launches mental health initiative
Updated 04 October 2022

TikTok launches mental health initiative

TikTok launches mental health initiative
  • #EndTheStigma campaign to raise awareness and facilitate discussion about mental health topics in the MENA region

LONDON: TikTok has announced the launch of a mental well-being campaign to build what it describes as “a supportive space where the community feels empowered to express themselves authentically.”

The Chinese social media platform aims to raise awareness about mental health topics through a host of in-app activations and a dedicated #EndTheStigma hashtag.

“TikTok has always been a place to celebrate entertainment, from dances and songs to adorable animals and comedy, and ultimately spark joy within their global community. But TikTok is also a place where people come to share their unique personal stories, including those around mental health and well-being,” the company said in a statement on Tuesday.

“TikTok is here to support their community as they share their experiences and helpful resources and forge new, meaningful connections across the platform to help #EndTheStigma.”

As part of the campaign, TikTok offers resources directly accessible on the platform, where users can learn about mental health-related issues, and connect with community advocates and organizations.

The platform plans to host live sessions with mental health advocates, as well as launch videos to promote positive conversations and end the stigma surrounding mental health.

“The #EndTheStigma hashtag aims to bring the community together to ensure that everyone has the resources they need to support their mental well-being,” the statement said.

“From checking in on one another, to sharing their own personal journeys, the campaign demonstrates TikTok’s commitment to a world where everyone has a support system to thrive, particularly in the digital age.”

The campaign represents a step forward for social media companies, which are often accused of failing to raise awareness about mental health problems and their consequences on their platform.

Recently, a MENA Mental Health Day survey conducted by YouGov found that 59 percent of Gen Z respondents said they were “feeling uncomfortable talking openly about their mental health for fear of offending friends and family.”

In 2018, a British study found that social media use can affect users’ physical health, and was linked to poor sleep, which is associated with depression, memory loss and low academic performance.


Twitter confirms Musk buyout offer, says will close at original price

Twitter confirms Musk buyout offer, says will close at original price
Updated 36 min 44 sec ago

Twitter confirms Musk buyout offer, says will close at original price

Twitter confirms Musk buyout offer, says will close at original price
  • The news comes ahead of a highly anticipated faceoff between Musk and Twitter in Delaware’s Court of Chancery on Oct. 17

LONDON: Billionaire Elon Musk is proposing to go ahead with his original offer of $54.20 per share to take Twitter Inc. private, Bloomberg News reported on Tuesday, sending the shares of the social media firm surging.
Twitter shares jumped 12.7 percent to $47.93 before trading was halted for the second time, while Tesla Inc, the electric vehicle company that Musk heads, fell about 3 percent.
Musk made the proposal in a letter to Twitter, Bloomberg reported, citing people who asked not to be identified discussing confidential information.
Twitter and Musk’s lawyers were not immediately available for requests for comment from Reuters.
The news comes ahead of a highly anticipated faceoff between Musk and Twitter in Delaware’s Court of Chancery on Oct. 17, in which the social media company was set to seek an order directing Musk to close the deal at $54.20 per share.
“This is a clear sign that Musk recognized heading into Delaware Court that the chances of winning vs. Twitter board was highly unlikely and this $44 billion deal was going to be completed one way or another,” Wedbush analyst Dan Ives wrote in a note after the news.
Musk agreed in April to buy Twitter for $44 billion, but within weeks said the number of bot accounts was much higher than Twitter’s estimate of less than 5 percent of users.


Meta pushes Reels monetization with new ad formats

Meta pushes Reels monetization with new ad formats
Updated 04 October 2022

Meta pushes Reels monetization with new ad formats

Meta pushes Reels monetization with new ad formats
  • New features include “post-loop” video ad format and horizontally scrollable carousel ads

LONDON: Meta Platforms Inc announced a series of new ad formats on Tuesday, aimed at creating new revenue streams for the short video and business messaging products that it has identified as key to growth this year.

In a blog post, the parent company of Facebook and Instagram said it was starting tests for a new skippable “post-loop” video ad format to play after its TikTok-like short video product Reels, which it has been promoting heavily.

Another new Reels format features horizontally scrollable carousel ads, which can display between two and 10 images at the bottom of a Reel, the post said.

Describing the company's business strategy at a press event, Meta executives said the new formats could lure Reels creators with ways to earn money from ad placements next to their videos.

“Our goal is to be able to provide the tools and the monetization opportunities, as you are continually growing your creator following across our platforms,” said Nada Stirratt, vice president of Meta's global business group for the Americas.

The executives also touted ads that open direct chats between businesses and prospective customers saying Meta can now use artificial intelligence to optimize whether the ads target new customers or those most likely to make a purchase.

Artificial intelligence would, likewise, power the selection of ads shown in users' Instagram feeds, the company said, citing internal research involving 400,000 advertisers that showed the approach produced more user purchases than other feed ads.

Meta is also opening up new spaces for advertising on Instagram, including the ‘Explore’ tab that users see when they run a search in the app, the blog post said.