The Moroccan film industry is set to for a major boost with the announcement of ambitious plans for two studio complexes at Ouarzazate, a town 200 kilometres south of Marrakesh, at the foot of the Atlas Mountains.

Dagham Film, owned by Moroccan-born businessman Mohamed El Asli, who spent 25 years working in the Italian film industry, is behind the building of the Kanzaman Studio on a 60 hectare lot.

In the first stage of the project, a 5,300 square metre facility has been developed, comprising production offices, workshops, costume stores, editing suites, dressing rooms and warehouse space.

El Asli, who has invested $6m-$8m of his own money in the project, plans to have one of the four sound stages modelled on Cinecitta's Teatro 5 and expects to host Oliver Stone's $120m Alexander The Great, starring Leonardo di Caprio, there at the beginning of next year.

Meanwhile, the province of Ouarzazate has sold 46 hectares near the town to veteran Italian producer Dino DeLaurentiis for the construction of another studio complex to take advantage of the proximity of diverse landscapes which provided the setting for such classic films as David Lean's Lawrence Of Arabia and Pasolini's Oedipus Rex.

Locations in and around Ouarzazate and the 30 hectare Atlas Corporation Studios, which were opened in 1983, have frequently been used by international film productions. Previous productions range from Lewis Teague's The Jewel Of The Nile and Martin Scorsese's Kundun to Ridley Scott's Gladiator and Alain Chabat's Asterix & Obelix: Mission Cleopatra.

According to the province's statistics, a total of 268 productions were shot in the region - 40 feature films, 66 documentaries, 133 reportages and 29 commercials - between 1997-2000, with a total investment of Euros 130m and the creation of 86,000 temporary jobs.