Why Abu Dhabi? Variety has a great exclusive today about why the Star Wars VII production has decided to go to Abu Dhabi:
“There’s a wide number of reasons why ‘Star Wars’ chose to shoot in Abu Dhabi. Obviously, straight off the bat, you’ve got to get the creative right,” said Baker, who was previously exec VP of Pinewood USA. “We have a great selection of locations that appeal to those guys. Then, there is everything else that falls into place: production infrastructure, crew, equipment suppliers, and obviously a big one in the rebate.”
The rebate amounts to 30% off the production there. That is not unlike what Vancouver is doing with ILM, where the new business tax break amounts to a 30% discount on taxes, except this amounts to the lion’s share of location shooting being discounted.
“We really started ramping up last year,” Baker said. “We wanted to create a production environment that was of international standards. So a producer can say: ‘If I spend $1 million on the ground in Abu Dhabi, I am going to get $300,000 back.’ So we launched the rebate, and I think that’s had a big impact on the decision-making process now, because producers are able to see what they can spend in Abu Dhabi and work out immediately what they are going to get back.”
So is this why Tunisia wasn’t revisited? The amazing part of the deal with Abu Dhabi is their flights even counted, which means importing in props and people were involved in the discounted rates but so does “Above-the-line talent from the Middle East” also “qualifies for the rebate.”
So what does it really amount to? Tourism.
A recent report by a firm of consultants found that for every $1 delivered to a production in rebate, $4.50 is injected into the local economy, Baker said.
Another benefit that attracting a pic like “Star Wars” delivers to Abu Dhabi is the boost to tourism and “the impact on brand Abu Dhabi,” he said. The “Lord of the Rings” franchise resulted in a 40%
increase in tourism to New Zealand, for example.
I cannot lie, I never wanted to visit Abu Dhabi, but since they’ve started filming Star Wars there, it has crossed my mind.
Thanks to Ron for the heads up!