Israeli Culture's Top Ten

Israeli Cinema's No. 1: Moshe and Leon Edery

Moshe and Leon Edery, 62 and 65 respectively, film producers and movie theater chain wonders.

Over the past decade, the two brothers who started out operating the projector at a movie theater in Dimona have become a cinema superpower on the national level, controlling many parts of the industry. Moshe and Leon Edery are not just the largest private investors in Israeli cinema today, but also producers, film distributors and owners of both a thriving theater chain and a DVD distribution company. They can also claim possession of a significant slice of local cinematic history, due to their systematic and persistent acquisition of the rights to many of the movies produced here over the years (from films by important directors like Ephraim Kishon and Uri Zohar to obscure works by unknown directors).

In 2002, the brothers opened the Cinema City complex at the Glilot junction, proving to all those who pooh-poohed the project as outsized and megalomaniacal that their business sense was as sharp as can be. The site has been a huge success, signaling the final decline of the old, urban movie theater and the rise of the multiplex. Three years ago, the brothers built the Cinema City complex in Rishon Letzion and similar centers will soon open in Jerusalem, Haifa and Be'er Sheva.

Ownership of these movie theaters ties in neatly with their distribution clout (via their United King distribution company) to give them the ability to launch any Israeli film effectively – with screenings in a large number of theaters and intensive sales promotion. They also usually handle the later stages of distribution, such as selling the rights for television broadcasting, VOD and DVD distribution (via their company NMC United).

The Edery brothers' name is now attached to many of the movies that are produced in Israel, not all of them with commercial potential. A partial list of the movies whose production they've been involved with in recent years includes Lebanon, The Youth, The Wonders, Aviva, My Love, This is Sodom, Lemon Tree, Turn Left at the End of the World and Once I Was. They twice came close to earning an Oscar for movies they had produced: Footnote and Beaufort, both directed by Joseph Cedar.

The Edery brothers have come in for harsh criticism from within the industry in recent years. Detractors maintain that their domination of so many stages of the local cinematic food chain gives them monopolistic standing in the limited local market. It is also claimed that their ties with various foundations and broadcasting organizations have a chilling effect on the industry and reduce equality of opportunity. Nonetheless, it's hard not to have great admiration for the brothers, too, for their passionate love for Israeli cinema, the faith they continue to place in it and their tenacity in continuing to invest millions of shekels yearly in this not necessarily profitable arena.