Veteran U.S. film and TV executive Michael Garin has been appointed CEO of Abu Dhabi’s twofour54, the outfit that provides infrastructure and incentives to more than 500 entertainment companies and drives media and entertainment industry growth in the United Arab Emirates.
Set up in 2008 and named after Abu Dhabi’s geographical coordinates, this so-called media zone is the Gulf region’s leading content creation hub. It recently spawned the world’s first Arabic-language, U.S.-style soap opera, “Inheritance” and has been increasingly luring international film shoots such as Bollywood hit “Bharat” and Michael Bay’s Netflix actioner “6 Underground,” partly thanks to a 30 percent production rebate.
Garin has been working in Abu Dhabi for the past 13 years as CEO of Emirati film and TV production company Image Nation, a title that he will retain. Image Nation last year entered a film and TV production partnership with Saudi-owned broadcaster MBC and exhibitor Vox Cinemas with the ambition for it to become a fully integrated studio of sorts. They are also an investor in former IM Global exec Stuart Ford’s company, AGC Studios and have other relationships in Hollywood.
Garin’s long career as an entertainment exec began working for Time-Life Television for a decade after which he co-founded Lorimar-Telepictures, the company behind “Dallas” and “Knot’s Landing,” and also served as CEO of Central European Media Enterprises, among other executive roles.
As CEO of twofour54 Garin will replace Maryam Eid AlMheiri who has risen to Vice-Chair of the company’s board.
Garin’s appointment comes as the company is moving to a larger facility on Yas Island with state-of-the-art TV studios and office space for media companies including Apple and CNN, and also building a twofour54 Studio City complex in the Mina Zayed waterfront area, with a 74-acre backlot, permanent sets and water tanks.
“We will continue the mission to grow the media sector in Abu Dhabi by providing world-class infrastructure and 360-degree support that ensures our creative community can bring their ideas to life and attracts the best in the business from around the world,” he said in a statement.
Garin’s move into a larger leadership role in building an entertainment sector in the UAE comes as Saudi Arabia is stepping up its efforts to lay the groundwork for an entertainment industry from scratch taking its cue from what’s been done in this sector in the Emirates with which Saudi has close ties. Garin’s role will be to help steer Saudi investment in Abu Dhabi and partnerships with the UAE so that they prove sound while incrementing its industry ties with Hollywood, Bollywood, and China.