Studio project puts Dubai on film fast track

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The Dubai government on Monday unveiled plans for a $122.5 million studio complex, the largest of its kind in the Middle East, designed to attract international filmmakers to the city.

The announcement came on the second day of the eight-day Dubai International Film Festival.

The three soundstages in the complex will be located within the up-and-coming Dubai Studio City, a 22 million-square-foot development dedicated to production and postproduction infrastructure, rentals and services.

The soundstages comprise one segregated, 15,000-square-foot soundstage for smaller features and TV production and two 25,000-square-foot soundstages that can be combined for full-length feature film shoots.

The complex also has a 3.5 million-square-foot back lot for outdoor shoots and set construction, 125,000 square feet dedicated to workshop and warehousing facilities and plots available for sale to individual investors to build their own soundstages.

In the first phase of the project, boutique offices will be ready for occupation in March, while the entire complex should be complete by mid-2008.

"We have already received 300 proposals for film production in Dubai, including films from Hollywood, India and Egypt," said Amina Al Rustamani, executive director of media for the Dubai Technology, Electronic Commerce and Media Free Zone Authority. "Of these, 28 films have already been greenlit for shooting in Dubai."

Bombay and Cairo are the largest centers for film production in the region, and Marrakesh is the Hollywood favorite when it comes to location. But Dubai hopes to score with its state-of-the-art facilities, security, infrastructure and absence of red tape.

"We are very efficient in getting approvals and permits, in coordinating with other government bodies and shrinking the time a film crew has to wait before they start shooting," Rustamani said. "We will be complementing, not competing with, other film-producing centers in the region. What is good for our business partners is good for us."

Dubai Studio City was created to boost foreign investment in the broadcast, film, television and music production sectors. It aims to build a cluster of production companies, support service providers offering production and postproduction facilities, animation studios and services as well as lab facilities.

It is part of the Dubai TECOM, a successful government initiative that created special economic zones, with investors exempt from paying any corporate or personal taxes. There is full repatriation of capital and profits, without currency restrictions.

Two big-budget Hollywood films, "Syriana" and "The Kingdom," have been shot in and around Dubai.
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