Warner Bros Announces $500 Million Abu Dhabi Game Co-Funding Deal
Today, Warner Bros. Entertainment, Abu Dhabi real estate developer ALDAR and Abu Dhabi Media Company announced a "long-term, multi-faceted strategic alliance" that covers a wide range of Warner Bros. concerns, notably including a fund for film and video game production and publishing.
This comes alongside development of a theme park and hotel complex, multiplex cinemas, and infrastructure investments for other digital projects.
According to Time Warner president and COO Jeff Bewkes, "This strategic alliance marks a significant step in Time Warner’s commitment to grow its businesses internationally," while Abu Dhabi Media Company chairman, Mohammed Khalaf Al Mazrouei remarked "Entertainment is a massive part of Abu Dhabi and its future."
Most crucially, WB Home Entertainment Group will function as worldwide publisher and distributor for games created by this fund, based on WB's own brands and titles as well as third-party properties. This also calls for the release of WB's games, developed elsewhere in the world, to be distributed in Abu Dhabi -- for example, developer WayForward's Looney Tunes: Duck Amuck for the Nintendo DS, which will be distributed in the region from November 30. $500 million is being invested in the game-related arm of the venture.
Predictably, the theme park will rely on the company's established characters, e.g. Bugs Bunny. Groundbreaking on the theme park/hotel complex is currently slated for 2009. Four Warner Bros.-branded cinemas are also planned across the country, with the first due to open in the fourth quarter of 2010.
At the core of the deal is a film production fund -- also valued at $500 million, a 50/50 split between Warner Bros. and the local Abu Dhabi companies. The venture will develop and produce "mutually agreed-upon, broad-appeal films" that Warner Bros. will have the option to distribute internationally. WB will also work with Abu Dhabi Media Company to produce Arabic-language films for pan-Arabic distribution. Film producer and executive Hunt Lowry will serve as the CEO of the company formed by this venture.
Warner Bros. Home Entertainment Group is also planning to work with Abu Dhabi Media Company to "...build Abu Dhabi’s infrastructure for the development of new media and digital delivery systems," according to the press release, with no further details available. However, plans for "next generation" digital distribution capabilities in addition to traditional physical media distribution were hinted at in the release.
Abu Dhabi, the largest emirate in United Arab Emirates, is also the wealthiest. According to Wikipedia it accounts for 70% of the country's wealth.
[UPDATE: Amount contained in video game fund ($500 million) specified after follow-up with Warner Bros spokesperson.]