Gulf News, Sept 29 – From a sleepy fishing village to the centre of the region’s pearl industry and then a 1970s oil producer, Dubai’s economy has seen some drastic changes over the last century.
But few would have foreseen its emergence as a global media hub, and only true visionaries would have placed the emirate as a major film-production centre.
Dubai Media City is now home to 72 broadcasters, including some of the leading names in international and regional media, sending out 162 channels over the airwaves.
And not content to accommodate companies including MBC, BBC World, CNN and Reuters, government officials launched Dubai Studio City in the first quarter 2005, claiming the 22 million square foot project can accommodate the demand over-spill from broadcasters for space in Dubai Media City, as well as transform Dubai into a film production centre. Those reported to be targeting space in the Dubailand complex include Los Angeles-based entertainment company Hollywood Studios International. Gulf News reported earlier this year that Fortitude Entertainment Group, a major Hollywood film producer, plans to film as many as 20 movies in the next few years, in which Dubai will play a role.
Studio City director Jamal Al Sharif said more than 50 per cent of space in the project’s $100 million first phase has been snapped up so far. Set up in terms of size and infrastructure to cater to broadcasting companies, the 20 boutique studios in phase one are scheduled for completion early next year.
"Dubai offers safety, security, infrastructure and no red tape," he said. "It is in a very central geographical location, there is no language barrier and it has a high standard of technology, so it is no surprise that it has emerged as a centre for broadcasting firms."
Al Sharif said studios catering to the film production industry will come into the market in late 2007 and will be supported by facilities such as prop shops, casting agencies, animation and special effects studios and stunt shops. "Dubai will have the ingredients to become a major filmmaking hub. The only significant challenge is getting the local talent to cater to this industry," he said.
Dubai has already emerged as a location for film shooting. Parts of recent Hollywood blockbuster Syriana were filmed at Dubai hotels.
Al Sharif said the emirate can now compete with traditional production centres such as Egypt and cover all aspects of filmmaking.
Keeping a keen eye on these developments are regional digital media companies, especially manufacturers of audio/video products and broadcast systems used in newsroom workflows, production and editing facilities.