Warner Bros. Entertainment along, ALDAR and Abu Dhabi Media Company have formed a strategic alliance calling for the creation of a theme park and hotel, jointly owned multiplex cinemas, a co-finance agreement covering feature film production and the development and publication of videogames, and the build-out of the infrastructure for Abu Dhabi’s digital transformation.The deal was unveiled today by Barry Meyer, Chairman & CEO and Alan Horn, President & COO, Warner Bros.; Ahmed Ali Al Sayegh, Chairman and Ronald Barrott, CEO, ALDAR; Mohammed Khalaf Al Mazrouei, Chairman and Riyad Al Mubarak, CEO, Abu Dhabi Media Co.; and Hunt Lowry, who brought the two parties together and will serve as the CEO of the yet-to-be-named film company formed by this venture.
“We are thrilled to be partnering with ALDAR and the Abu Dhabi Media Company on these exciting endeavors and look forward to a very long, mutually beneficial relationship,” said Meyer. “We are so impressed by ALDAR’s mission and philosophy. It is a first-rate company, led by first-rate executives. We look forward to working alongside ALDAR and the Abu Dhabi Media Company to not only create an exciting and unique cultural destination in Abu Dhabi, but to have the opportunity to extend the Warner Bros. businesses and brand throughout the region.”
“This strategic announcement demonstrates the depth of our commitment to building Abu Dhabi in a holistic way - bringing the best in entertainment to the communities we are creating. International alliances are a core element of our strategy to lead the industry by example, delivering value to our shareholders, customers and partners alike,” added Al Sayegh.
“This is such a unique deal and really the beginning, albeit a grand beginning, of a partnership that will allow our companies to embark on a multitude of projects on a multitude of entertainment platforms,” added Horn. “I echo Barry’s sentiments that we could not have chosen better partners than ALDAR and Abu Dhabi Media Company, particularly as their commitments to universal cultural values and the environment are so closely aligned with ours.”
“This strategic alliance marks a significant step in Time Warner’s commitment to grow its businesses internationally,” said Time Warner President and COO Jeff Bewkes. “Working with its partners ALDAR and the Abu Dhabi Media Company, Warner Bros. continues to capitalize on its world-class brands and expertise to grow its international business in creative and collaborative ways.”
“I think it is crucial that Abu Dhabi has a position on the world stage, and that means mastering every field. Entertainment is a massive part of Abu Dhabi and its future, and through this agreement with Warner Bros. all parties have underlined how iconic the emirate will be in this field. From theme parks to hotels and cinemas, this agreement will put Abu Dhabi at the center of the world’s entertainment map,” said Al Mazrouei.
“In my very first discussions with Ahmed, I knew Abu Dhabi and Warner Bros. were a perfect match,” said Lowry. “I am thrilled to have been able to bring these two world-class parties together. It will be great to be making movies with Warner Bros. again and to nurture the growth of film and media in Abu Dhabi.”
“This is a great opportunity for us to expand our local language film production business to a new region, developing talent both in front of and behind the camera,” said Richard Fox, Executive Vice President, International, Warner Bros. “As is our practice around the globe, we’ll work closely with our partners each step of the way to impart our filmmaking experience and expertise, making sure that we’re respectful and supportive of local customs and mores, both in our local film production and across all of these in-territory businesses.”
For the hotel and theme park project, Warner Bros. Entertainment will rely on its vast experience in character and brand marketing and licensing, drawing on select properties from its live-action and animated libraries, to provide themes for the overall project as well as individual attractions. Warner Bros. will also help develop and design the theme park based on its history in that arena, which includes the development, ownership and management of Warner Bros. Movie World theme parks on Australia’s Gold Coast, in Madrid, Spain and in Bottrop, Germany and previous ownership of and ongoing licensing agreement with Six Flags theme parks in the United States. ALDAR will coordinate and oversee physical construction of both the theme park and hotel. Groundbreaking on the theme park and hotel is expected in 2009.
“Entertainment is a powerful tool for differentiating a community,” added Al Mubarak. “We are delighted to be working with regional and international market leaders on this project, which will put Abu Dhabi on the global entertainment map.”
Warner Bros. International Cinemas will develop, design and manage jointly owned multiplex cinemas in Abu Dhabi to be built by ALDAR. Initial plans call for the construction of four cinemas, in An Ruwais, Al Lain City, Yas Island and Central Market Development in Abu Dhabi, which will be Warner Bros.-branded and themed, featuring iconic characters and titles from Warner Bros.’ classic and contemporary film libraries. Groundbreaking on the multiplex cinemas at the Central Market Development has occurred and they are due to open fourth quarter of 2010.
Since its founding, WBIC has become the premiere Western exhibitor building multiplexes throughout the world in underscreened territories and has been responsible for the creation of more than 170 cinemas and almost 1,600 screens in 11 countries internationally. WBIC currently operates cinemas in Italy and Japan and manages the Mann Theatres chain in the United States.
“ALDAR and Warner Bros. are recognized leaders in their respective businesses,” said Barrott. “Combining our strengths through this partnership will result in a truly unmatched, world-class leisure destination.”
The film production fund, a 50-50 venture, calls for the development and production of mutually agreed-upon, broad-appeal films, with Warner Bros. retaining worldwide distribution options/rights. Separate from this arrangement, Warner Bros. Pictures International will work with Abu Dhabi Media Company to develop and produce a slate of Arabic-language films for local and pan-Arabic distribution.
Warner Bros. Home Entertainment Group will combine its expertise in all aspects of content with the Abu Dhabi Media Company’s resources and capabilities to build Abu Dhabi’s infrastructure for the development of new media and digital delivery systems.
In addition, under the interactive games part of this deal which will be overseen by WBHEG, Warner Bros. Interactive Entertainment will serve as publisher and hold worldwide distribution rights on all gaming properties (based on both Warner Bros.-owned brands and titles and third-party properties) created under this first-of-its-kind fund. Approximately a dozen games are currently in various stages of development and publishing as part of the agreement; the first games published as part of the deal are “Looney Tunes: ACME Arsenal” for X-Box 360, Wii and PlayStation 2 and the accompanying “Duck Amuck” on Nintendo DS with a domestic release date of October 9 and distribution throughout the EMEA region on November 30, 2007.
Warner Bros. Home Entertainment Group brings together Warner Bros. Entertainment’s home video, digital distribution, interactive entertainment/videogames, direct-to-DVD production, technical operations and anti-piracy businesses in order to maximize current and next-generation distribution scenarios. WBHEG is responsible for the global distribution of content through DVD, electronic sell-through and transactional VOD, and delivery of theatrical content to wireless and online channels, and is also a significant worldwide publisher of videogame titles.
“Our partnership with ALDAR and the Abu Dhabi Media Company is allowing us to get in at the forefront of the digital media revolution in Abu Dhabi,” said Kevin Tsujihara, President, Warner Bros. Home Entertainment Group. “The nascent state of the industry and the fact that we’re able to be a part of shaping the digital infrastructure of the region is really exhilarating and provides us with a huge opportunity in the home entertainment arena.”
Beyond the businesses specifically outlined in Warner Bros.’ initial agreement with ALDAR and Abu Dhabi Media Company, the companies will discuss and explore additional areas in which they can work together, including such ventures as production facilities, digital content distribution and retail opportunities in the Gulf region.