The history of production houses in uae
The history of production houses/companies in the United Arab Emirates and Dubai is shorter compared to most countries. This is because the film industry did not really take off until around mid-2000s when the government started supporting the industry as a sector which could supplement the economic growth of the emirates. Before there were production houses, there were cinemas. During the 1960s, movies were shown in only three places – the National cinema in Nasqr square, a cinema in the military camp at Sharjah, and the Jumeirah cinema in Dubai. Movies were obtained from Europe and Lebanon by the Bahrain Cinema Company which was established in 1967 through Royal Decree. It was one of the first ever companies established in the emirates that dealt with films, though, it only managed the sale, distribution, and screening of films and was not involved in production. Another notable company is Phars Film which was established by Ahmad Golchin, the Father of UAE Cinemas. However, like the Bahrain Cinema Company, Phars Film is also focused on the sale and distribution of films, not production.
This focus on sale and distribution of film rather than production shifted during the mid-2000s when the UAE government recognized that the entertainment sector, in particular the film industry, could be a great way to boost their national economy. They have started adopting the “growth model” by Potts and Cunningham (2008) which states that there is a positive relationship between growth in the creative sector such as the film industry and growth in the economy. They have done this by creating a government funded production company called Image Nation which was established in 2007 and is split into two divisions – Image Nation Abu Dhabi and Image Nation International. It has received $1B to establish partnerships with international film production companies such as Warner Bros. This has resulted in Image Nation co-producing movies such as “The Help” (2011) and “The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel” (2011).
However, this does not mean that local films were not produced before the creation of Image Nation. There were some locally produced films by creative individuals such as “Abr Saabel” in 1989 by Ali Al Abdul which is considered the first ever Emirati film to have been made but was not released locally. Other films, like “Al Hilm” (2005) by Hani Al Shaibani and “City of Life” (2010) by Ali Mostafa were also Emirati made films that were released in the Emirates. However, no production company is listed in “Al Hilm”’s IMDB page while “City of Life” was produced by Mostafa’s own production company called AFM Films. Since then, production houses have sprouted all over the emirates with 180 existing in Dubai alone. Since 2005, almost 6,000 productions have been completed in Dubai with notable films being “Mission Impossible-Ghost Protocol”, “Syriana and The Kingdom” which are Hollywood films, and Bollywood films such as “Do Not Disturb” and “Casanovva”.
Additionally, constructions of so-called “studio cities” which consist of production houses capable of addressing all the needs to make a movie, are being built in the Emirates. The most prominent of these is Dubai Studio City, a 22 million square-foot area near the deserts at the edges of Dubai. It was launched in 2005 with a budget of Dh1.4 billion and has the third largest sound stage in the world with a size of 50,000 square feet. Since its opening, it has been booked by production crews from all over the world – Russia, Europe, India, China, and Egypt. In a year alone, the profits of Dubai Studio City can amount to up to Dh160 million. These profits, besides helping the local economy, have been used to fund local productions from local production houses and also to start workshops or classes which provide training for Emirati filmmakers.