Hollywood firm to set up $1b film city in RAK

Sadiq A. Salam
Filed on June 11, 2006

RAS AL KHAIMAH— Plans have been formulated here for the establishment of a film city from Hollywood, USA. The estimated $1billion Mirage Holdings FZCO has excellent pedigree and boasts of a crew that has won back-to-back Oscars for special effects in ‘The Matrix’ and ‘What Dreams May Come’.

The comprehensive project is expected to open up the inflow of celebrity US film personalities into the quiet, exclusive environs of Ras Al Khaimah and set up probably the largest film and post-production centres in the world in dollar terms.

Michelle Nickelson, the CEO of the venture, told Khaleej Times: “The Mirage Holdings FZCO has been licensed to operate the entire Film and Media City as a UAE Free Zone,” adding, “to our knowledge, we are the first foreign, private company to be granted permission to operate a full free zone of such large dimensions”.

The Mirage Studio complex sits on 480 acres of exceptional real estate just off the new Emirates Highway and is a short 25-minute drive to the Dubai International Airport. In addition to the production studio, it will have an entertainment shopping centre, villas, apartments and office space for rent, a golf course and polo field with the cost close to $1 billion. Her father, Carl Nickelson, company CEO, had been involved with partners in the financing and launch of Manex Entertainment, the visual effects studio which won back-to-back Academy Awards for ‘What Dreams May Come’ and ‘The Matrix’. “With Mirage, we have members of the same team on board, but the management structure is totally different,” she added. Visual effects are becoming extremely expensive, with several $200mn plus budget films coming out this year. “The biggest cost is not the stars, it is the effects,” she added. By being able to fabricate visual effects in RAK using top designers in the US, everyone wins, she added.

“The business climate in RAK is set up to assist you, and by giving approval to this project, Shaikh Saud Bin Saqr Al Qasimi, Crown Prince and Deputy Ruler of RAK proved that he is a very business-oriented man and has a clear vision for the growth of RAK,” she added. We are looking to develop an entertainment industry that provides service at a better price to the US and other markets, including India, she said.

Ms Nickelson continued: “Right now, there is a lot of liquidity in the Middle East and we have been approached by investors from the region who are interested in investing in the film industry,” she said adding: “The next step for Mirage is to put investors together with US production companies”.

“In addition, there are no income or personal taxes in the UAE, so there are some interesting business scenarios by having a production domiciled here,” she added. With the support, wisdom and enthusiasm of the RAK Government, “We have been able to make Mirage Studios a reality, which we feel will quickly have an international presence,” she added.

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