Taking advantage of easy access, advanced infrastructure and scenic landscapes, the number of movies filmed in the UAE over the past few years have steadily increased as the country has firmly positioned itself as an ideal location for film-makers looking to cut down on production costs and reduce paperwork.
Abu Dhabi, whose movie sector is overseen by the Abu-Dhabi Film Commission, ADFC, has a rebate system that offers up to 30 percent payback for film-makers. Dubai is also discussing such a move.
According to estimates, the two emirates have witnessed good returns from film shooting. "In a study commissioned by ADFC earlier this year, PricewaterhouseCoopers, PwC, estimates that for every AED1 invested in the production rebate programme, AED4.5 of GDP will be generated within Abu Dhabi," Paul Baker, Executive Director of Abu-Dhabi-based twofour54 intaj, a production facility and production services company, told the Gulf News daily.
"Because of this so called ‘multiplier effect’, PwC expects the total economic impact of the rebate programme in 2014 to be AED180 million," Baker added.
While he said film and TV production will contribute to the growth of the media industry and economic diversification in general, Baker noted that "those who come to Abu Dhabi for the duration of a production are just as valuable to the economy. For example, Star Wars brought along several hundred cast and crew who stayed in hotels and dined at restaurants in the emirate, which in turn contributed to the local tourism market and boosted hotel occupancy." He added that the filming experience also helps local talent interact with some of the world’s best producers on set.
Dubai, which was one of locations for Syriana (2005), and Mission Impossible 4 (2011) and 14 foreign movies, mainly from Bollywood, in 2014 including Happy New Year, is studying a rebate system to attract more film makers to the emirate, a film commission official said.
"We are still new, and we don’t have a rebate system," said Saeed Janahi, head of operation at the Dubai Film and TV commission, which started its mission in 2013. However, "we are working on it and will announce it soon, because the system exists everywhere in the world.
"Dubai is one of the favourite locations for Bollywood movies and many Bollywood movie premieres are also held in Dubai after the city’s "exposure" and because it has "become a brand", Janahi said.
Just like Abu-Dhabi, Dubai’e economy has also benefited from filming of movies and TV episodes. While no figures are available to determine how filming movies in Dubai has supported tourism, many filming locations noticed an increase in visitors seeking to see where scenes in movies were shot.
Commenting on the incentives offered, Janahi said it is still premature to say how the rebate system would be. While acknowledging prices might be more than other places, he added, "the services are faster".