On the big screen

Abu Dhabi to host premiere of ‘Dune: P2’ amid Gulf movie boom

Wikimedia Commons

Sand dunes in Abu Dhabi's Rub' al Khali desert. (iStock)

ABU DHABI, United Arab Emirates – Nerds and culture vultures have more than one reason to make a stop in Abu Dhabi this month as Comic Con gets underway today and the capital is set to host the Middle East premiere of “Dune: Part Two” on Feb. 18. The 12th annual pop culture fest is the largest in the region, with actor Oscar Isaac of “Dune,” Marvel Universe and “Star Wars” fame headlining this year’s event. It’s all in good fun — but movies and gaming are also big emerging businesses in the Gulf. 

“We are proud to have supported an incredibly successful filming franchise once again,” Mohamed Dobay, acting director-general of the UAE’s Creative Media Authority, said today. “Dune” and “Dune: Part Two” are among at least 150 productions that have used Abu Dhabi as a location in recent years. 

In addition to Warner Bros. and Legendary Pictures, the capital has lured the likes of Disney, Netflix, Paramount and Universal, marketing its diversity of locations — the city, Arabian Sea and the Liwa Desert — its pool of production talent and the incentive of a 30% rebate for production costs. Films that have been shot in Abu Dhabi include movies from the “Mission Impossible,” “Star Wars” and “Fast & Furious” franchises, as well as Bollywood productions.

Major theatrical productions are a part of a wider effort by the UAE and Saudi Arabia into developing entertainment and gaming. The countries have poured billions of dollars into studio investments, developing talent and building up local capabilities to support the creative industries. Saudi Arabia invested $8 billion into gaming in 2022 and the first half of 2023, the Financial Times reported at the time, mainly through purchasing shares in leading global companies. But its war chest remains intact: the kingdom has earmarked $38 billion to become an international gaming center. 

Subscribe now to
The Daily Circuit

The Daily Circuit newsletter (coming soon!) connects doers and dealmakers in the Middle East and those who care about the region from afar. Sign up today to be among the first in the know.