In their unending quest to spend other people's money, Western film producers and studios have spent the last couple of years becoming conversant in the languages of Wall Street and the hedge-fund world.

Now, just as those wells become exposed to the sub-prime mortgage morass, these same producers are learning an entirely new lexicon: Arabic.

This year saw the Middle East move from perpetual mirage to film-financing oasis.

It began in June with the creation of Mark Gill's Film Department. That outfit, the latest in a line of US production and distribution mini-studios that have sprung up of late, received substantial investment from Sheikh Walid al-Ibrahim.

He is the Saudi chairman of Middle East satellite broadcaster MBC Group, based in DubaiMediaCity in the United Arab Emirates. Another investor in Film Department was Zeid Masri, an American of Palestinian heritage.

Propped up by record oil prices, the petro-dollars have not stopped gushing since.

In October, Abu Dhabi, one of Dubai's six sister states within the UAE, signed a partnership deal worth $1bn with Warner Bros.

Operating through the newly created Abu Dhabi Media Co, the Emirate and the studio will each spend $500m on big-budget films and video games, sharing the profits equally once Warner has taken its distribution fee.

As a measure of goodwill and economic opportunism in this fast-growing region, Warner will make films in Arabic too and license characters to a new Abu Dhabi entertainment park.

Never one to let its neighbour steal the headlines, Dubai has since paid a reported $1.5bn for a stake of up to 3% in Sony Corp.

The vehicle for that particular investment was Dubai International Capital, an investment arm controlled by local crown prince Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid al-Maktoum.

And it is not just the Hollywood conglomerates that have benefited from this pan-Arab largesse. Insomnia Media Group saw its coffers bolstered to the tune of $550m by Egyptian brokerage firm Borak Holding.

The cash infusion allows the US independent film, television and talent services company to pursue movie libraries and mount productions including an untitled $70m war epic being shot in Egypt, Morocco and Los Angeles, about a 12th century Arab general.

At the time of the investment, Insomnia co-founder Brett Saxon explained Borak was looking for more interesting places to put its money, adding that foreign investors were easier to deal with in some ways than the more overtly aggressive US private-equity investors in Hollywood.

He also suggested US bankers typically require specific kinds of distribution deals and stars attached up front before committing to film and TV projects.

Not that the US money tap has completely turned off. In early December, JPMorgan, the New York bank that has spent the last 30 years financing the film industry through debt, is now investing $200m of its own capital into the entertainment industry.

According to JPMorgan's top film banker, John Miller, this commitment comes as other financial players including banks, hedge funds and equity firms have been reining in their film-financing activities. Last year, Miller expressed scepticism about those previous deals since most investors stood behind the Hollywood studios in line to get paid. 'It's hard to see how you can get more than single-digit returns - if you're lucky.'

Now, after a year that has seen some hedge fund-backed films including 300 perform at the box office, single-digit returns must look pretty good for all those financial institutions currently counting their multi-billion dollar losses.