Duel in the desert catches Hollywood eye

Abu Dhabi to create film festival

Dubai, or not Dubai?

It seems Abu Dhabi, the largest of the seven emirates comprising the UAE, wants to grab some of the global media attention enjoyed by neighboring Dubai.

That tourist-friendly haven, replete with exclusive hotels and indoor ski slopes, is home to the Dubai Intl. Film Festival, set to unspool its fourth edition Dec. 9-16.

But Abu Dhabi officials, including royal family member Sheik Sultan bin Tahnoon al Nahyan, were in Cannes last week to announce the creation of their own international film festival — which will run in the second half of October.

The competition doesn’t end there. The two emirates are also vying for film production and the attention of Hollywood filmmakers.

Abu Dhabi, which now has its own film commission, is challenging Dubai’s attempts to establish itself as a regional filmmaking hub. Dubai Studio City, intended as a one-stop-shop for all stages of production, is set to open its first soundstages in December.

Dubai has the distinction of attracting the first Hollywood production to shoot in the UAE — “Syriana” in 2005 — but Abu Dhabi followed with “The Kingdom,” which was shot in 2006.

Dubai has inked separate deals with Marvel, Universal and Nickelodeon to build theme parks there, while Abu Dhabi ponied up $200 million to build the world’s largest Guggenheim museum. The country reportedly produced a further $700 million license fee to build a Louvre branch in the desert, with access to the Paris museum’s collections.

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