As much as I'm excited about new developments in Arab film, as a cinephile, it's hard not to feel nostalgic for what is referred to as "The Golden Era of Egyptian Cinema." Although it's little known in the Western world, millions of people long for the kind of cinematic indulgence that they once experienced at theatres with names like Metro Cinema from Casablanca to Baghdad. Cairo in the 1940s and 50s gave us films with chic clothing, catchy music, sweet-faced actresses (oh Faten Hamama...sigh) and most importantly, a distinct optimism about modernity that now, due to years of suffocating, despotic rule, is all but absent from Egyptian artistic production.
For those who want to familiarize themselves with these great films, there are only a few options. Like me, you can get Arabic satelite on Dish Network (an unlikely option for most). You can move to Dearborn, MI or Jersey City, NJ where there are enough Arab immigrants to warrant whole video stores devoted to Arabic-language media (even more unlikely). You can move to the Arab World (most unlikely). Or, for the rest of you, there is Arab Film Distribution.
In 1990, John Sinno of Seattle started this distribution company with 5 Arabic DVDs. In recent years that number has exploded and in addition to distributing nearly every quality (and sometimes not so quality) Arab-related documentary out there, he is distributing tons of great, restored Egyptian classics on DVD with English subtitles. This is basically THE place to see these movies. So check it out. I'd be happy give recommendations.
And while I'm on the subject of old Egyptian movies, I should mention an excellent resource for vintage Arabic movie posters. Check out this site. Not only is there an endless list of kitchy Egyptian posters, there are some fun Arabic posters of non-Arabic movies. Give your sweetheart an Arabic poster of 'Die Hard III' for the holidays and she'll never say goodbye.