30k viewers saw new Israeli comedy 'Mossad' in its first weekend in theaters

The most popular Israeli film of all time sold 570,000 tickets in its first six months in Israeli theaters.

July 5, 2019 15:27
2 minute read.
A poster for the film 'The Mossad.'

A poster for the film 'The Mossad.'. (photo credit: SHINE HOROVITS)


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Thirty thousand tickets were sold last weekend for the Israeli comedy Mossad, a light-hearted, gag-filled look at that revered Israeli institution, which opened throughout Israel on June 27. 

While this number may not seem impressive by Hollywood standards, it’s a phenomenally high figure for an Israeli film, some of which never sell that many tickets even after they have been in theaters for months.

This is especially impressive because last weekend was the height of the summer movie season, with comedies such as The Secret Lives of Pets 2 opening, and Late Night and Toy Story 4 still in theaters.

In addition, many screenings of Mossad were sold out — another rarity among Israeli movies.

Mossad stars Tsahi Halevi, the new Israeli star whose breakout role was in the drama Bethlehem as Mossad operative Guy Moran, a secret agent who can’t do anything right. Popular Israeli actors Tal Friedman, Gila Almagor, Ilan Dar, Dvir Benedek, Shlomi Koriat and Efrat Dor also appear in the film. The movie was inspired by such American comedies as Airplane, Top Secret and The Naked Gun series; director Alon Gur Arye even got his idol, David Zucker, the director of those films, to come to Israel and be an on-set adviser to Mossad. Gur Arye also enlisted Avi Nesher, whose films have been a mix of comedies and dramas, to help him edit the film. Nesher’s The Other Story holds the Israeli record for the most tickets sold in a short period of time, with 150,000 movie-goers seeing the film in its first 10 days of release.

The most popular Israeli film of all time domestically was Oded Raz’s Maktub, a 2017 comedy about two Jerusalem gangsters, which sold 570,000 tickets in its first six months in Israeli theaters. This is a staggering statistic when taken in the context of the total population of Israel, as well as the fact that millions of Israelis simply don’t see films, either because they are religious or don’t speak Hebrew.

This surge in domestic popularity of Israeli films shows how far blue-and-white cinema has come in the last two decades. Before 2001, part of the Israeli film-fund budget went to pay theaters to show Israeli movies – including reimbursing them for heat and air conditioning – since throughout the 80s and 90s, Israeli movies generally played to empty or nearly empty theaters.

With the passage of the Cinema Law in 2001, the Israeli government dramatically increased the funding it gives to Israeli cinema, which created the renaissance seen in Israeli movies today. While artistic Israeli movies succeed at festivals abroad – like Nadav Lapid’s Synonyms, which won the Golden Bear at the Berlin International Film Festival earlier this year – Israeli comedies and dramas bring hundreds of thousands to the theaters locally. In 2014, Talya Lavie’s black comedy about female soldiers, Zero Motivation, was the most popular film of the year in Israel, surpassing even American super-hero films.

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