The arrangement calls 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 video games and the build-out of the infrastructure of Abu Dhabi's digital transformation.
The deal was announced on Wednesday morning in a press statement by Barry Meyer, chairman and CEO, and Alan Horn, president and COO, of Warner Bros; Ahmed Ali Al Sayegh, chairman, and Ronald Barrott, CEO, of ALDAR; and Mohammed Khalaf Al Mazrouei, chairman, and Riyad Al Mubarak, CEO, of Abu Dhabi Media Co.
Hunt Lowry, the former head of Gaylord Entertainment and Pandora, brought the two parties together and will serve as CEO of the yet-to-be-named film company formed by the venture.
The agreement gives Warner Bros Pictures another co-financing partner for its movie slate to join existing deep-pocket co-financiers like Village Roadshow Pictures, Legendary Pictures and Virtual Studios.
'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 in the statement. '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,' said Al Mazrouei. '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,'.
'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.'
Warner Bros already has Movie World theme parks on Australia's Gold Coast, in Madrid, Spain, and in Bottrop, Germany, as well as an ongoing licensing agreement with Six Flags theme parks in the US. ALDAR will coordinate and oversee the physical construction of the theme park and hotel, which are expected to break ground in 2009.
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. The cinemas at Central Market Development are expected to open in 2010.
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 (WBHEG) will collaborate with Abu Dhabi Media Company to develop new media and digital delivery systems in the region.
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 fund.
Approximately a dozen game 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.
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.
The Warner deal comes just weeks before the first ever Middle East International Film Festival in Abu Dhabi (Oct 14-19) which also incorporates a film financing conference (Oct 15-17).