Alliance brings Warner Bros. to Abu Dhabi


NEW YORK -- Time Warner's Warner Bros. Entertainment unveiled a strategic alliance Wednesday morning that will bring a wide range of its products to Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates, and the greater gulf region, including via a co-financed feature film production fund.

The partnership with real estate developer ALDAR and the newly established Abu Dhabi Media Co. also covers the development of video games, the creation of a theme park and hotel, jointly owned multiplex cinemas and the build-out of the infrastructure for Abu Dhabi's digital future.

Beyond the already wide scope of the alliance's first initiatives, the companies said they will discuss and explore additional areas in which they can work together.

Production facilities, digital content distribution and retail opportunities in the Persian Gulf region are among the future opportunities.
Warner Bros. chairman and CEO Barry Meyer said the broad-based alliance presents the "opportunity to extend the Warner Bros. businesses and brand throughout the region."

Hunt Lowry, who brought the parties together, will serve as the CEO of the yet-to-be-named film fund, which will be a 50-50 venture and calls for the development and production of mutually agreed upon, broad-appeal films. Warner Bros. will retain worldwide distribution options/rights.

In a separate move, Warner Bros. Pictures International will work with Abu Dhabi Media Co. to develop a slate of Arabic-language films for local and pan-Arabic distribution.

For the emirate, which has been trying to build world-class resorts and destinations, the deal is a big step, said Mohammed Khalaf Al Mazrouei, chairman of Abu Dhabi Media Co.

"This agreement will put Abu Dhabi at the center of the world's entertainment map," he said.

Lowry said, "It will be great to be making movies with Warner Bros. again and to nurture the growth of film and media in Abu Dhabi."
Groundbreaking on the theme park and hotel is expected in 2009.

Groundbreaking on the first multiplex cinemas has already occurred, and they are set to open in the fourth quarter of 2010. About a dozen video games covered by the alliance are already in various stages of development and publishing, including "Looney Tunes: ACME Arsenal" and the accompanying "Duck Amuck."

The digital aspect of the deal also will be key as it is "allowing us to get in at the forefront of the digital media revolution
in Abu Dhabi," said Kevin Tsujihara, president of Warner Bros. Home Entertainment Group.

Overall, the arrangement, which sources say should have a multibillion-dollar value for TW over time, is part of the world's largest media conglomerate's continued expansion beyond U.S. borders. TW president and COO Jeff Bewkes said it is "a significant step in Time Warner's commitment to grow its businesses internationally."