x Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 28 July 2017

Film productions reel in Dh200m for Dubai

As well as the money spent on actual filming, crews also spend money in hotels and in shopping malls.

Dubai  is benefiting fromfilm crew spending to the tune of $200 million.
Dubai is benefiting fromfilm crew spending to the tune of $200 million.

Local film productions, including the shooting of parts of Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol at the Burj Khalifa, boosted Dubai's economy by Dh200 million (US$54.45m) last year, a senior industry executive says.

Spending on hotel rooms, catering and other local goods and services amounted to almost Dh100m, said Jamal al Sharif, the managing director of Dubai Media City and Dubai Studio City (DSC).

"The total budget spent in Dubai by film-makers last year was Dh99.6m," he said. "In the film business, it has a multiplier effect. In Dubai, we're [factoring] a multiplier effect of times two [for a total of about Dh200m]."

Mr al Sharif oversees DSC, which includes a body called Location Approval Services that facilitates permissions and other services for crews looking to film in Dubai.

The total spent locally by all film crews, including those working on feature films and television commercials, almost doubled last year, Mr al Sharif said.

"Almost Dh100m was spent in Dubai by the film-makers, by TV content creators. I can prove it [because] each application we receive, it says 'type of shooting, how many days, how many crew, what type of cameras, what's the budget?'" he said.

"This money went to Dubai, they spent it in Dubai. They came to the country, they rented hotel rooms, they rented cars, they went shopping." Mr al Sharif said spending by local film crews in 2009 was about Dh54m or Dh58m, just over half the claimed spending last year.

Tim Smythe, the chief executive of the Dubai production house Filmworks, which facilitated the shoot of Mission: Impossible in the emirate, said total local spending by film crews could have been even higher than Dh200m.

"Local expenditure would be more than Dh100m. I'm sure that the whole industry must be in the region of $30m to $40m in terms of spend. If you have a multiplier effect of two, that's $80m." Big productions such as Mission Impossible have a huge impact, Mr Smythe said.

"We had to build 10km of cabling just for the lighting," he said. "Big productions can count for up to 20 to 30 per cent of the total turnover of the industry. A big production makes a big difference."

Mr Smythe said the multiplier effect was a valid measure of the wider economic benefits of film-making.

"When I come in and I fill up a hotel, that hotel has to employ staff, and so it goes on," he said.

Mr al Sharif said that his organisation approved more than 900 film shoots last year. "It was a very interesting learning curve for us in 2010. For the first time, we had such a large film filmed here in Dubai," he said.

"To bring in the film was not easy. We had to modify a lot of rules and regulations, we had to modify a lot of media infrastructure."

Mr al Sharif said a more formal film commission and financing mechanism is under study for Dubai.

"For the past few years we have been working on structuring something like a film commission," he said.

"We are thinking in the next year or two maximum, we should have a platform in Dubai."

bflanagan@thenational.ae