x Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 28 July 2017

Zabeel Saray set to benefit from Mission: Impossible connection

Zabeel Saray, a possible location of the forthcoming Music Hall, has the lesser-known starring role in the recent Mission:Impossible film.

Anil Kapoor as Brij Nath in a scene from Mission: Impossible – Ghost Protocol filmed at the Zabeel Saray. Courtesy Paramount Pictures
Anil Kapoor as Brij Nath in a scene from Mission: Impossible – Ghost Protocol filmed at the Zabeel Saray. Courtesy Paramount Pictures

Having topped most box offices over Christmas, the all-conquering Mission: Impossible - Ghost Protocol continues to perform well across international cinemas, raking in more than US$500 million (Dh1.8bn) since it premiered in Dubai in December. The film's success means that millions of people across the world have had the chance to gasp at Tom Cruise's now legendary adventures on the Burj Khalifa, considered almost as much a star of the film as its leading man. It also means that one of Dubai's newest hotels has been given considerable exposure.

While local filmgoers know about the Jumeirah Zabeel Saray's involvement, most of the global audience is unlikely to realise that the film's Mumbai palace was not actually a palace in India, but this resort on the Palm Jumeirah. Hundreds of extras - mostly Dubai residents - descended on the hotel's lobby for the filming of the black-tie party where Anil Kapoor's wealthy businessman is given a violent lesson in flirtation by Paula Patton.

The shoot took place over several long days in November 2010, before the venue had actually opened its doors. But this wasn't always supposed to be the case.

"We were actually planning to open the hotel the same time they wanted to film," admits Stephan Schupbach, the Zabeel Saray's general manager. "Originally, we were planning on working around this but fortunately - or not fortunately - the hotel was slightly delayed. In hindsight, I was quite glad it was delayed."

The discussions that eventually led to the hotel's inclusion began a year or so before filming, when some of the studio executives were staying in a different Jumeirah resort in Dubai. "We got talking to them and found out that they were heading to India as part of a reconnaissance for Mission: Impossible," says Schupbach. "We didn't really think much more of it, and were just happy they were staying with the Jumeirah group."

A couple of months later, they returned to Dubai and were shown the Zabeel Saray, which was still in the development phase. "They were fascinated by the hotel," says Shupbach. "But at that stage I didn't know the details and my interest was more about showing them the new hotel and perhaps generating some future business."

It was only months later when it was announced that the film would be shot in Dubai and the hotel approached Paramount with the suggestion that it could be used. Two years on, and the Zabeel Saray has played a major role in one of the highest-grossing movies of 2011.

While it may be too early to tell whether the hotel has picked up any extra business through the film, Shupbach suggests that in the long term - with the release of the DVD - he hopes to capitalise on it. "We have certain bragging rights that we can use. We're pursuing something to follow it, perhaps a 'Mission: Impossible' stay at the hotel."

Nothing has been formally announced yet, but the Zabeel Saray is also expected to be the venue for the Music Hall. The popular Beirut cabaret nightclub is due to open a Dubai outpost later this year and reports suggest that the hotel will house a specially fitted theatre for weekend shows.

"Marketing is so important for a new hotel," says Shupbach. "If there's anything that can put you out there into the domain, it helps."

With Mission: Impossible bragging rights and one of the region's hottest nightspots potentially landing there, the Zabeel Saray shouldn't have too much difficulty getting noticed.

aritman@thenational.ae