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Tue 18 Oct 2011 11:45 AM

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Abu Dhabi set to triple funding in local movie industry

State-backed Image Nation aims to produce up to six Emirati films a year by 2016

Abu Dhabi set to triple funding in local movie industry
Still from UAE film Sea Shadow, produced by Image Nation Abu Dhabi

Abu Dhabi film company Image Nation plans to nearly triple its annual investment in the fledgling UAE movie industry and produce up to six Emiratis films a year by 2016.

“Our plan is go from two films a year, over the next five years, building in year five to six films,” CEO Michael Garin told Arabian Business.

The company, whose film credits include the Hollywood thriller The Double, this month split its interests into two local and international divisions.

Image Nation’s first UAE productions – coming-of-age story Sea Shadow and horror thriller Djinn – are due for release this year. Its international credits include thriller Contagion and The Help, which both held top spots at the US box office and grossed more than $200m.

Locally-produced films will also be expected to be commercially successful, Garin said.  

 “Those films need to be made for a global audience by Emiratis, most of the time with Emirati themes but they don’t have to be shot here.

“With so many Emiratis educated abroad it is a perfectly legitimate theme to talk about their experiences and those films would relate to a universal audience,” he said.

Image Nation Abu Dhabi this year signed a deal with Empire International to distribute locally-produced movies to theatres and on DVD throughout the Middle East and North Africa region.

"The launch of our first local productions is an important milestone,” Garin said. “Given Empire's extensive experience and knowledge of this market, they were an obvious choice to ensure our movies reach the right audiences.”

Film studios are missing a trick by failing to directly target Arab audiences, Image Nation’s chairman Mohammed Al Mubarak said earlier this year at a media summit in the UAE capital.

The region has a lucrative cinema market and, with the right content, he believed film makers could see significant returns.

“We did a survey and the average Abu Dhabi family goes to the cinema three times a week, that is unheard of anywhere. It is a storytelling culture,” he said.

“You can make movies with the right content it will always find growth, it is a cash cow.”