UAE could become the next hub for film industry, says Hollywood star Idris Elba

The actor was speaking at Investopia, where he urged investors to spend money on the creative economy


Nasreen Abdulla

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Published: Thu 29 Feb 2024, 11:39 AM

Last updated: Thu 29 Feb 2024, 3:13 PM

The UAE could become the next hub for the film industry, similar to Hollywood's rise in America during the early 20th century, said actor Idris Elba to a group of investors in Abu Dhabi on Wednesday.

“If you look at America in the early 20th century, the creative industry helped form its economy, culture and values. It helped to really tell the world what America was and Hollywood was born. The UAE can really benefit from reframing the way the world views this region by using the creative economy while creating opportunities,” Elba said.

The Luther actor was speaking at the two-day conference Investopia, where he urged investors to spend money on the creative economy.

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“There are incredible opportunities in the film industry,” he said. “Yes, you could lose your money very quickly, but you can also triple or quadruple the money very quickly. If you look at what Mattel did with the Barbie movie — toys have faced a steady decline, but with the movie, they created $1.5 billion of revenue generation, and it continues. So it is more attractive for investors to do this with the industry.”

A platform that connects the global investment community with opportunities, Investopia is designed for those wishing to spend money and reap benefits from the UAE’s future-focused economy. In its first two editions, the conference brought together more than 3,000 participants from 58 different countries, more than 500 C-suite executives, and financial institutions representing more than $500 billion of assets under management.

The Hollywood star further explained how investing in the creative industry is beneficial. “The entire ecosystem is huge,” Elba said. “When you have an emerging economy where the stories need to be told, don’t think of the creative industry as just actors and singers. Think about all the layers that come with it. From the show business side which involves the legal and insurance opportunities to the fashion and equipment, it is a big ecosystem.”

Alternative investments

At the conference, there were various talks about alternative industries that could offer good returns on investment. One such industry was sports. "It remains one of the most engaging categories globally," said Tom Corbett, Group Head of Sponsorship and Media at Barclays, explaining why the bank had been a sponsor of the Premier League for almost 30 years. "For us it is about how we use the power of sport and fans' passion to reach our customers in a way that we can't ordinarily do. It drives our brand the way no other activity can."

Giorgio Furlani, the chief of the Italian professional football club AC Milan, said that investment in the sports sector is almost a foolproof way of making good returns. He broke down how he would personally invest in the sector. "I would split it between Europe and US," he said. "In each place, I would split it between clubs and leagues. When you invest in leagues in Europe, to me, these are investments where you cannot lose money, depending on what time frame you have. It is a super safe investment. If you look at the structure of leagues in the US, it is such that as a club owner, you are guaranteed to make money. I would say that there are a number of factors that are making the sports industry very attractive for investors."

In November last year, AC Milan opened up its headquarters in Dubai in a bid to reinforce its ties with key partners here and to tap into commercial opportunities in the area. "Emirates has been our partner for over 15 years and our move here is part of an agreement we have with them," he said. "The UAE and the region is one of the markets where we can grow. We want to have events and connect with our fans. The only question we ask ourselves is why we didn't come here earlier."


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