When Warner Bros Entertainment unveiled its big Abu Dhabi strategic alliance deal at the end of September, it was the end of 10 months of corporate matchmaking and the start of a new job for Hunt Lowry.
The producer (whose credits include The Last Of The Mohicans and Disney's The Kid) and former head of Gaylord Films and its Pandora specialty division had been looking to start a new co-financing and co-production venture since Warner Bros-based Gaylord was wound down in 2004.
'Then I heard about the United Arab Emirates (the largest of which is Abu Dhabi) and the building explosion going on over there,' Lowry recounts. 'I looked at the place and realised that we could do more, because it's such a fast-growing country. I went back to Warner and said, 'I'd like to see if we can get you guys, with all you have to offer, in a partnership over there.''
The result was an alliance between Warner, Abu Dhabi real estate developer Aldar and the newly established, state-owned Abu Dhabi Media Company that takes in the creation of a theme park and hotel, the joint ownership of multiplex cinemas, a film co-financing agreement, a video-game venture, and the build-out of Abu Dhabi's digital infrastructure.
Lowry's new job is as Los Angeles-based CEO of the yet-to-be-named film company.
The firm will work with a production fund supplied on a 50/50 basis by Warner Bros and its Middle East partners. The size of the fund was originally expected to be $500m, but Lowry says that in fact 'it'll be more like $1bn, because we're going to take our equity and put some senior debt on it to get it up to $500m'.
The company has a first-look deal for worldwide distribution with Warner but will be able to make films at other studios as well.
Its output, says Lowry, will consist of 'mainstream international movies - broad-appeal comedies, thrillers, action adventures and family movies' (a separate slate of local-language films will be overseen by Warner Bros International). At the same time, though, 'we'll be looking for material that reflects both cultures. The whole point of the deal is to build a cultural bridge.'
The first two productions - set to shoot, with mid-level budgets, in the first half of next year - will be the teen comedy You Wish and Shorts, a new children's movie from Spy Kids writer-director Robert Rodriguez.
The Abu Dhabi companies, Lowry says, are not just a new source of 'dumb money' for Hollywood but astute investors wanting to tap into the expertise of a strategic partner.
'They get it,' he insists. 'The way these things are is you've got to do a slate of films and you've got to be in it for the long haul, which they are.'
And the Emirate itself, Lowry suggests, provides access to a huge and varied audience of modern movie fans. 'Abu Dhabi is very progressive and has 80 different nationalities. There are people from all over the Middle East, North Africa and Asia. And they're a big movie-going group.'