x Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 22 July 2017

Emirati-made feature film Djinn become the second highest grossing film across the GCC following its premiere at the Abu Dhabi Film Festival. The horror movie made more than Dh1million at the box office in its first days of release.

The crew of the supernatural horror thriller Djinn filming in Al Hamra village near Ras al Khaimah. Jeff Topping / The National
The crew of the supernatural horror thriller Djinn filming in Al Hamra village near Ras al Khaimah. Jeff Topping / The National

ABU DHABI // UAE-made horror movie Djinn has taken a record Dh1 million at the box office in its first week of release.

The supernatural tale has also become the second-highest grossing film in the GCC after Hollywood blockbuster Captain Phillips, starring Oscar winner Tom Hanks.

The high viewing figures follow the movie’s premiere at the Abu Dhabi Film Festival.

The film focuses on an Emirati couple who move into a haunted apartment block in Ras Al Khaimah and is directed by award-winning “master of horror” Tobe Hooper, who made Texas Chainsaw Massacre and Poltergeist.

It was produced by Image Nation, part of Abu Dhabi Media, which also owns The National.

In the UAE, 23,000 people saw the film in its first three days, increasing from 6,500 on opening night to 8,500 on day three.

“The biggest success for Image Nation is that audiences of all nationalities are going to see Djinn, especially as the majority of dialogue is in Arabic,” said Mohammed Al Mubarak, chairman of the production company.

“It really has crossed the boundaries between the different communities we see here in the UAE. The number of people going to the cinema to watch our film has in some ways taken us by surprise as these statistics are pretty rare in UAE cinema.”

Mario Haddad, chief executive of Empire International, the film’s distributor, said: “After watching the premiere of Djinn at the Abu Dhabi Film Festival last week and hearing the positive reaction of most exhibitors in the theatres, I was convinced the picture was going to open big.

“The film is currently number two in the Gulf area, second only to Tom Hanks’ Captain Phillips, a Sony production distributed by Empire as well.”

The Empire office in Dubai secured 22 screens in UAE and a further 20 screens in the GCC region, making it the widest release an Emirati film has ever had.

“What helped the film most is the subject and title,” Mr Haddad said.

“We have based our work on the fact that this subject was approached for the very first time in a local movie, but what also helped is the language used in this film, that reflects exactly what you hear in the Gulf territories – a mixture of Arabic and English – adding credibility to the general atmosphere of this production.”

Michael Garin, chief executive of Image Nation, said: “We hope that this film will eventually be seen around the world.

“It basically equalled the total grosses of our first picture, Sea Shadow. It certainly exceeded our expectations.”

Mr Garin said Emirati involvement was a key objective of Image Nation.

“Fifty per cent of our team is Emirati, so we have no lack of talented kids here,” he said. “What we lack is experience, which takes time, mentors, and the opportunity to work on world-class projects, which is why we work on international projects, so they can get experience there.

“Djinn has overtaken Hollywood pictures here in the GCC. This is not just an Emirati picture as far as audiences are concerned, this is a film for everybody. Word of mouth, which is critical now, will hopefully carry the picture’s momentum.

“It is not an easy sell, but the most powerful tool in motion pictures is the audience experience. When your friends say it was a good picture, you don’t care what the critics or the advertising says, you are more likely to go. That is what is driving the audiences for us now, and will hopefully continue over the coming weeks.”

Scott Rowell, a 24-year-old Scottish expatriate living in Abu Dhabi, was one of the first in line to see the film last Thursday.

“Horror films have always been a favourite of mine, so when I heard the UAE had released its very own, directed by the great Tobe Hooper, I knew I had to see it,” he said.

“It definitely exceeded my expectations – and I jumped out of my seat a few times.”

Another viewer, Emirati Aiysha Al Junaiba, 26, said: “It was definitely worth the wait to see this film – I waited a long time to see it. It gets a nine-and-a-half out of 10 from me.”

ksinclair@thenational.ae