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Wed 8 Aug 2012 09:08 AM

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EXCLUSIVE: UAE film fans spent $140m at cinemas

More than 13m tickets bought over last 12 months; blockbuster Avengers notches up bumper US$6.5m at box office

EXCLUSIVE: UAE film fans spent $140m at cinemas
EXCLUSIVE: UAE film fans spent $140m at cinemas
EXCLUSIVE: UAE film fans spent $140m at cinemas

Movie fans in the UAE went to the cinema more than 13m times last year and spent more than US$140.6m at the box office, a study by Arabian Business has found.

The release of blockbusters The Avengers and Mission Impossible 4: Ghost Protocol attracted record numbers of crowds during the second half of 2011 and the first half of 2012.

Click here to see the top 30 UAE blockbusters of the last 12 months

Between July 2011 and June 2012, a total of 13.4m tickets were sold in the UAE, worth a total of AED516.6m (US$140.6m), according to figures supplied by Italia Film marketing firm.

The biggest movie during the period was The Avengers, which made US$6.5m followed by Mission Impossible 4: Ghost Protocol, which generated US$6.4m at the tills at UAE cinemas.

Partly filmed in Dubai, the fourth film in the Tom Cruise spy franchise had its world premiere at the Dubai International Film Festival and its main centerpiece featured the movie star dangling off the side of the Burj Khalifa during some daring stunt work he did himself.

“While Avengers topped the list as the biggest grossing film, I was very proud to see that Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol topped the list with the most attendees,” said Tim Smythe, CEO of Dubai-based Filmworks Group.

The spy thriller was indeed the most popularly attended movie over the twelve months, attracting 651,028 UAE fans, compared to The Avengers’ 532,341.

“The other very important factor is the top grossing films both made box offices of over US$6m, which gives hope for the future development of the local industry,” Smythe said.

Click here to see the top 30 UAE blockbusters of the last 12 months

“Having personally been involved in securing [Mission Impossible 4] for Dubai and producing the Dubai leg of the film, I feel proud for Dubai for the local and international successes of the film, and that is has become the most successful of all the MI films.

“I also feel while Dubai played such a critical role in the film, that Dubai was not over used, which allows us the opportunity to attract more top rated studio productions,” he added.

The data revealed that of the nearly 300 films released in the UAE during the year, the average film made US$483,206 at the UAE box office, with the average among the top 50 films rising to US$1.9m the study showed.

"Arabic producers may be a little disappointed to have not charted any higher than 25, although Omar Wa Salma's producers can be justifiably proud to have beaten the latest versions of successful franchises such as X-Men, Ghost Rider and Underworld at the box office,” said Chris Newbould, editor of Dubai-based film trade magazine Digital Studio.

“With the only Emirati entry registering at a respectable, but perhaps a little disappointing in light of a hefty ad campaign and plenty of hype, 139, it seems that it may be audience expectations just as much as regional quality that local producers need to address,” he added.

The growth in Hollywood blockbuster ticket sales comes as it was announced earlier this year UAE-based Grand Cinemas plans to double its number of cinema screens in the GCC as part of a US$30m expansion plan.

The firm will open new cinemas in the UAE and Qatar and plans to launch its first movie theatre in eastern European nation Georgia as it looks to grow its customers by up to 50 percent, CEO Jean Ramia told Arabian Business.

“At the moment we have 108 screens… in about two years’ time with the signed projects and others in the pipeline, we are going to reach 201 to 207,” he said.

The new cinemas will be funded through a mixture of cash and debt, he added. “It’s going to be partially financed… The average cost of a 12-screen [cinema] is US$8 to US$12m, depending on the seats and everything.”

The cinema chain, which also distributes films throughout the UAE via its parent company Gulf Film, will open three new cinemas in Abu Dhabi, three in Qatar and another in Dubai’s Dragon Mart. Two cinemas will be located outside of the GCC, said Ramia.

Click here to see the top 30 UAE blockbusters of the last 12 months

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