A media zone has been launched in Abu Dhabi as part of the city's bid to establish itself as a major player in the global film industry.

The multimedia park - called twofour54 - aims to create Arab content in film, broadcasting, publishing and digital.

It will supply production and post-production facilities for film making as well as a vocational training academy for young Arabs hoping to break into the industry.

'Twofour54' aims to be operational from mid January 2009, with production facilities being available from June

Imagenation, the film production arm of the Abu Dhabi Media Company which yesterday announced a $100m slate deal with National Geographic Films, will be one of the founding partners of the zone.

Other film partners on board include Middle East production companies C Sky Pictures and Rotana Studios, along with partners from across the media including the BBC, CNN, Thomson Reuters, and Harper Collins.

Walid-Al-Awadi, chairman of C Sky Pictures, who was previously based in New York, but who will now operate out of Abu Dhabi, told Screen - 'in the past there has been no infrastructure for making films in the Arab World.

As a result of the media zone, I can now use the knowledge I have gained from overseas, to produce quality Arab films, using Arab talent, for both the local and international market'.

He added 'previously, it has been difficult using Western writers to tell an Arab story, when they don't fully understand the culture. Now, with Arab writers being trained in a professional environment, I can use Arab writers to tell my stories.'

Al-Awadi's first feature film projects to come out of the media zone will be a romantic comedy based between the Arab Peninsula and the US, and a historical piece about the Arab Peninsula in the 1920s.

He hopes to finish the first film by the end of 2009, using the facilities at 'twofour54'. Al-Awadi is also due to start shooting a 30 episode TV drama series in Morocco, called Tora Bora, in the next couple of months.

The launch of 'twofour54' has coincided with the Middle East International Film Festival, which is taking place in Abu Dhabi until 20 October. 'The timing was partly planned, as we knew there would be a lot of media in the city for the Film Festival,' said Wayne Borg, COO of the media zone.

'We hope that in the future we can use the film festival as a platform for showcasing work coming out of the media zone,' he added.

Earlier this week, the city hosted its second annual Circle Conference for international producers, financiers and film makers to create new filmmaking opportunities in the Middle East.