Warner Bros joins Abu Dhabi film, game venture

Warner Bros joins Abu Dhabi film, game venture


Abu Dhabi/New York: Warner Bros Entertainment is setting up a film and video game production firm with United Arab Emirates’ Aldar Properties and a UAE media company.

The companies, including Abu Dhabi Media Co, will also develop a theme park, hotel and cinemas in the Gulf Arab emirate, Aldar said in a statement.

“This is a multibillion dollar transaction and will grow as the years go by and as it expands beyond the boundaries of the UAE," Aldar Chief Executive Ronald Barrott told Reuters by telephone. “We will tap capital market instruments to finance the project."

Warner Bros Entertainment and its partners will invest $500 million in a joint venture fund to develop films, and another $500 million in a video game fund, a Warner spokesman said.

“This is a region of the world we have looked at, thought about, but never participated in any meaningful way," Warner Bros Chairman and Chief Executive Barry Meyer told Reuters in an interview in New York.

“In some ways it’s really only the beginning of what could be an even deeper relationship encompassing film and video distribution, both in the Gulf region and regionally," he said.

Warner Bros is a unit of Time Warner Inc, the world’s largest media company.Warner Bros will help design the theme park and hotel, with construction beginning in 2009. The theme park will be “by far the largest" of the parks Warner has developed, said Richard Fox, Warner Bros’ executive vice president.

The company has been involved in the development, ownership and management of Warner Bros. Movie World theme parks including Australia’s “Gold Coast," and parks in Madrid, Spain, and Bottrop, Germany.

Europe and India

The company will manage four multiplex cinemas to be built by the first quarter of 2010, Aldar said.

Aldar Chairman Ahmed Ali Al Sayegh wants the park to be attraction for anyone in a seven-hour flight radius, including major European capitals such as London and Frankfurt, as well as Indian cities, he said in an interview in New York.

The planned production company will develop films in English and Arabic, as well as video games that Warner Bros will distribute globally, Aldar said.

The video game fund will be involved in developing 75 or more games in a 10-year period, Meyer said. Warner’s film activity also could expand to include production partnerships in other parts of the Middle East and Africa, in countries like Egypt, Jordan or Lebanon, Fox said.

The joint venture film fund plans to develop and produce broad-appeal films while a separate arrangement with Warner Bros Pictures International will work with the Abu Dhabi Media Company to develop and produce Arabic-language films for local and pan-Arabic distribution.

“We’re not limiting the films that we make for the local community," Fox said. “There’s going to be an Arabic film that’s going to be huge around the world."

Aldar is developing more than $50 billion of real estate projects, mainly in Abu Dhabi, the Middle East’s third-largest oil exporter, which is reaping a windfall from record oil prices.Time Warner shares were down 5 cents at $18.07 on the New York Stock Exchange.