x Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 24 July 2017

City of Life to play on screens across Gulf after surprising success at home

The unexpectedly successful City of Life, the UAE's first "home-grown" film, is to be shown in other Gulf countries from next week.

ABU DHABI // The unexpectedly successful City of Life, the UAE's first "home-grown" movie, is to be shown in other Gulf countries from next week. About 80,000 UAE movie-goers have watched the 90-minute film since its release on 12 screens in April, twice the number expected by the film's producer, Tim Smythe. "We never expected to get to 80,000," he said. "Now we are still showing on two screens, at the Ibn Battuta and Dubai Mall, though this is probably going to be the last week. By comparison, for example, Avatar stayed on for months and sold 300,000 tickets but it opened at 45 screens."

City of Life is due to open at cinemas in Bahrain, Kuwait, Qatar and Oman on June 24. It was also picked up by an international distributor, Shoreline Entertainment, at the Cannes Film Festival, which is working on the worldwide release. "It's unlikely to get a cinematic release in the rest of the world - excluding the Middle East and India - because the distributor would have to pay a lot for print and advertising. The advertising would cost more than the film cost to make. Distributors didn't mind this when they knew they would get the money back on a film, but it's more likely to get a TV and DVD release," Mr Smythe said.

In the UAE, the team had a minimal budget for advertising, said Ali Mostafa, the 19-year-old Emirati director. "We have never had any proper marketing, it's lasted so long through word of mouth." Local reaction has been positive. "For a feature film to get that much publicity is a landmark," said Nezar Andary, an assistant professor of literature and film at Zayed University. "What's amazing is that the director chose the hardest kind of film to deal with; a multiple narrative. It's a very difficult thing to control. It created a lot of discussion, even if their opinion was against the film."

asafdar@thenational.ae