Deal to put Warner in Abu Dhabi

Posted on September 27, 2007


Claudia Eller, Times Staff Writer

SECTION: BUSINESS; Business Desk; Part C; Pg. 1

Time Warner Inc.’s Warner Bros. studio struck a multibillion-dollar joint venture deal Wednesday with two Abu Dhabi companies that would bring such American icons as Bugs Bunny, Roadrunner and Scooby-Doo to the Persian Gulf region.

The partners have agreed to build a theme park, a hotel and multiplex cinemas in Abu Dhabi, the leading power in the United Arab Emirates. They also plan to produce movies and video games as well as undertake Web initiatives as part of the deal, which is arguably the most ambitious gamble yet by a U.S. entertainment giant in a region traditionally wary of Western culture.

Flush with cash from the oil boom, the Persian Gulf monarchies have been in a race to attract foreign investment in real estate, finance, healthcare and technology. Over the last year, Abu Dhabi and its smaller neighbor Dubai have made cross-cultural alliances with Universal Studios and Paramount Pictures in an effort to establish entertainment hubs in the Arab world.

“They know oil won’t be their lifeblood forever,” said Steve Baker, an Orlando, Fla.-based theme park industry consultant. “They’re trying to get their fair share of tourism revenues. That’s what this is about.”

Bahrain has emerged as a center for consumerism and tourism in the Middle East. Establishing an entertainment beachhead is seen by the emirates as helping to shake its reputation as lacking cultural attractions. [more]