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Dubai gets new studios

Space opens up this month

Dubai Studio City finally opens its doors this month, more than two years after the project was announced in February 2005.

Built at a cost of $500 million, the long-awaited one-stop-shop production center is designed to turn Dubai into the filmmaking capital of the Middle East with 18 boutique studios.

Some 38 media companies, including MTV Arabia and MBC, have signed up for the state-of-the-art broadcasting facilities. With Dubai Media City already oversubscribed, Studio City’s unveiling has come at the right time for many of the broadcasters helping to maintain Dubai’s position as a media hub.

The most exciting aspects of Studio City, namely the three proposed high-tech soundstages that were supposed to usher in a new era of filmmaking in the region, remain to be built, however.

A recent trip to the site revealed a tale of two cities. On one side lay the brand new boutique studios, with construction workers busily putting on the final touches before the official unveiling on Dec. 5 took place.

On the other side, however, were vast swathes of sand upon which the foundations for the three soundstages — including a 15,000 square foot soundstage and two more at 25,000 square feet — were still being prepared. The first of those stages is now set to open by September, with the final two set for completion in the first quarter of 2009.

Redesign delay

Studio City director Jamal Al-Sharif admits to a delay of three months in the construction of the soundstages, a consequence of a major redesign that will now see the completed stages boasting a water tank as well as other amenities designed to facilitate local and international filmmaking.

“If a delay is for the good of the project, then I don’t see it as a delay,” Al-Sharif says. “The new designs are adding value.”

Al-Sharif isn’t letting the delays get him down. The new designs will see increased workshop space for film technicians equipped with the latest fiber-optic technology.

“The delays have only added about 10-15% on to the original budget, which is no big deal,” Al-Sharif says.

DSC execs are close to inking deals for two major Hollywood features to lense at the soundstages once they finally open. Though Al-Sharif remains tight-lipped over what they are due to the signing of nondisclosure agreements with the relevant parties, the swagger in his step would seem to indicate that the desert-bound playground for a new generation’s celluloid dreams may well be worth the wait once it is finally completed.

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